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January 5, 2004

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Flame and Glory
It’s about time someone described these celebrities for what they really are [“Falling Stars,” by Simon Dumenco, December 8]. My only disappointment was that he left out the politicians.
—Ed Acker, Montclair, N.J.

Poor Rich Stars
However much we may worship fame and fortune, neither one really has much to do with success. After reading Simon Dumenco’s body count of current falling stars, it occurred to me that great celebrity and wealth can be every bit as much of a burden as poverty and namelessness. —Lee Stringer, Mamaroneck, N.Y.

Can’t Buy Me Love
If there’s a rehab for publicity addicts, that’s where Paris Hilton belongs, not on the cover of your magazine. Compared with girls of actual talent who strive for fame and fortune, she has only family money to justify all her publicity.
—Sally Hunter, Alexandria, Va.

Last Will
I have no words to comfort the family and friends who mourn Carolyn Heilbrun’s decision [“A Death of One’s Own,” by Vanessa Grigoriadis, December 8], but her story touched me deeply. This incredible woman had accomplished so much on every level—education, family, friendship, and love—she puts me to shame. Maybe the sense that she was done now was the last gift she could offer.
—Barbara Becker, Jersey City, N.J.

Mourning After
As a 66-year-old man who has spent many years battling severe depression and suicidal ideation, I became increasingly angry about the suicide of feminist and writer Carolyn Heilbrun. Here was a woman who was healthy and wealthy, with no history of mental illness, and with many family members and friends who cared for her. While I empathize with anyone who suffers from depression or mental illness, I think that to intellectualize the seriousness of suicide and the sorrowful aftermath for one’s family and friends is a flagrant disregard for the wondrous and blessed gift of life.
—Charles Blackwell, Manhattan

Class Revolt
The portrayal of Carolyn Heilbrun’s attempt to live a moral life contradicts my memory of the difficult time my classmates and I endured in her feminist seminar during our senior year at Columbia in the late eighties. Clearly, something was the matter with her. Heilbrun was both an uninterested and hostile mentor. She was perpetually unavailable for one-on-one discussions during posted office hours. In the end, she gave the majority of our final papers nearly failing grades, with bafflingly biting and nonsensical comments scribbled in smeared pencil on our title pages. Thankfully, Columbia’s English department stepped in and raised our grades to reflect our efforts.
—Bryana Warner, Manhattan

The World’s A Stage
John Simon rates Leonard Bernstein’s theater music superior to his classical music, and then takes a swipe at his Chichester Psalms [“Theater: ’S Wonderful,” December 8]. As it happens, some of Chichester Psalms began as theater music in an attempt to adapt The Skin of Our Teeth, by Thornton Wilder. This suggests Bernstein didn’t share the idea that there are hard-and-fast barriers between music for the concert stage and musical theater.
—Jeffrey Sweet, Manhattan

Six or . . .
Perhaps Angels in America is both the best television and also the best movie of the year, as John Leonard asserts [“Television: Winged Victory,” December 8], but there is nothing in his review that would convince me of this, or even make me interested in watching it. However brilliant the writing (and I’ll take Leonard’s word on that), six hours seems like six hours too many.
—Tom Farrelly, Seattle, Wash.

. . . One Half-Dozen
While i agree with John Leonard that Angels in America is a powerful movie with first-rate writing and acting and well worth the six hours, I am surprised that he did not discuss the disappointingly weak—dare I say, hokey—ending. From Mary-Louise Parker’s opening scene to Bethesda Fountain, there was a sentimentality that I did not expect from Tony Kushner. It was a letdown, after watching such strong images and hearing a splendid use of language, both of which are rare in theater and film.
—M. F. Lerman, Manhattan

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