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Letters & Essays: S-U

Letters & Essays of the Day

If You Are Permanently Lost

By Molly McCully Brown

I never have any idea where I am. I lived my whole childhood in the purple foothills of the same five-square-mile town and I still couldn’t tell you whether you turn left or right on the single thruway to get to the grade school or the grocery store, or how to find the houses of any of my childhood friends. I can’t tell you how to find the conspicuously modern angles of the apartment building in the small Mississippi town where I lived for three years in graduate school, or even easily direct you from my old house in Austin to the bright little bar where I wrote much of my first book. I never know how far I am from the airport or the highway. I can’t read a map effectively, and even though it’s less than half a mile from my current apartment in London, I couldn’t get to the Thames without the artificial voice on my cell phone—set to an Australian accent so its omnipresence is less tiresome—­calling out turn left every 250 feet. Half the time, to remember which way is left, I have to imagine for an instant that I am picking up a pen.

Burning the Days

By James Salter

In Manhattan, in the lower right-hand corner, I had found a place in which to write, a room near the river, within sight of the cathedral piers of the Brooklyn Bridge. It was on Peck Slip, a broad street near the fish market, strewn with paper and ripped wood by the time I arrived each morning, but quiet with the work of the day by then over. I wrote in this room with its bare wooden floor and ruined sills for a year—it was 1958—struggling with pages that turned bad overnight.

A Remembrance: Niccolo Tucci

By Jonathan Schell

One of the earliest and most informed young opponents of the Vietnam War (The Village of Ben Sue was published in 1967 when he was twenty-three), Jonathan Schell wrote strongly worded articles week after week, year after year, in the “Notes and Comments" section of The New Yorker. His moral but never preachy tone as well as his grasp of the philosophical and historical aspects of political-military conflicts immediately attracted Niccold Tucci, who recognized a kindred spirit.

Helen Frankenthaler and James Schuyler: A Correspondence

By James Schuyler

In bohemian postwar Manhattan, poets (Frank O’Hara, John Ashbery, Kenneth Koch) naturally gravitated to painters (Joan Mitchell, Grace Hartigan, Larry Rivers) whose work they appreciated on its own terms. Certain poets were lauded for their perceptive, unbiased eye; some painters instinctively sensed a resonant poem. Painter Helen Frankenthaler and poet James Schuyler had such a mutual appreciation. Their run-in during the 1954 Venice Biennale was memorable enough to open Schuyler’s poem “Torcello” (they must have met previously to have recognized each other, though it is unclear when). In any case, they kept circling: Schuyler reviewed Frankenthaler’s shows at the Tibor de Nagy Gallery in 1957 and at the André Emmerich Gallery in 1960.