1 New York’s latest issue was dedicated to listening to the very old. Many readers responded to the special issue by emphasizing the importance of their elderly friends and family. Andie MacDowell wrote, “It’s been interesting to watch how people speak about older people during the pandemic. I have felt in the last few years that society no longer respected the elderly — not in the way that I was taught as a child. I hope that we come through this with a deep respect and reverence towards our elderly.” @lisascrandall added, “We didn’t do nearly enough to protect them — It’s maybe one of our greatest failures during this pandemic.” On Instagram, @rlaarthur wrote, “Anything I’ve ever learned that was worth knowing, I learned from someone older than me.” In the accompanying essay, Mark Harris explored how the elderly have never been more powerful or vulnerable (“Our Fragile Gerontocracy,” May 25–June 7). @Ginger_Clark tweeted, “I found this piece … helpful and moving, and I think my younger friends struggling right now with this terrible situation might also find it helpful.” @ralphkr88265685 added, “I cannot say enough great things about these two pages. You brought life to the subject of aging and made this 76-year-old feel young again.”
2 The magazine’s cover featured 92-year-old Marga Griesbach, a Holocaust survivor and world traveler (“I Said to My Mother, ‘Did You See the Blood?’ She Said, ‘I Hoped You Hadn’t Noticed,’” May 25–June 7). Marga’s granddaughter Eliza Schultz wrote to the magazine, “Marga Griesbach — Holocaust survivor and global cruise passenger — is my grandmother (my ‘Oma.’) I was born around when Marga and Dieter met, i.e., when her German returned to her and she began to share her story. So unlike my mom, I grew up fully informed about Marga’s experiences in the camps and on the death march. It was through Rebecca Traister’s profile of Marga that I learned about the more mundane — and, yes, normal — parts of her life: the yenta, the non-kosher sausage, the public-radio opera tour, the employment discrimination. The stuff you don’t think to ask your Holocaust-survivor grandma about. It’s a rare gift to now be able to share her story, as told by a brilliant journalist, with the world. Best of all, the article captures how quick-witted and sharp I’ve always known her to be.” Podcast host Talia Lavin wrote, “I wish so much I had my grandparents’ story laid out as clearly and magisterially as this.” Author Manu Saadia said, “I haven’t cried like this while reading in a long time, don’t know if it’s cathartic or just overwhelming, but thank you.” And online, the_hamster commented, “Marga Griesbach is a sentinel beacon of human endurance and astonishing character … Mazel tov!”
3 The issue spotlighted dozens of other elderly people (“Long Lives,” May 25–June 7), including Louise “Nonnie” Bonito, a 107-year-old Italian grandmother. A documentary by her granddaughter Lisa Addario was published on the magazine’s website, where it charmed readers like @miteshrajani, who said, “This was the most satisfying and beautiful video I saw during quarantine.” Added @yurany11, “This made me cry. It reminded me of my grandma. God bless you, Nonnie.” The magazine also featured photos of the beauty-pageant babushkas of Brighton Beach. Jason Diamond wrote, “I’d like to put this in pill form and take it every single day.” Gabriella Hoffman tweeted, “Never heard of Your Highness Grandmother Pageant but my paternal baba (short for babushka, a.k.a. grandma) certainly would have loved this if she were alive today.” @molbobolly wrote, “I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again here. If babushy ran the world, everything would be sorted.” Responding to a conversation between five nuns in the Bronx, marianne.kehler commented, “Thank you for this beautiful and illuminating profile of women who made a real difference to many lives … I often think of the nun/priest dynamic in the similar way nurses do the work, and doctors get the credit. Nuns are the unsung heroes in religious orders, who are the heartbeat and often the true wisdom behind the scenes.”
4 Art critic Jerry Saltz wrote about the Early Renaissance painter Sandro Botticelli and his work La Derelitta, which Saltz called “the saddest painting I have ever seen” (“Botticelli’s Quarantine,” May 25–June 7). Reader James Lerman called the story “the most riveting cultural appreciation I have encountered in recent memory. Springsteen and Botticelli mashed up in the same paragraph, followed by a fulsome history of the Florentine Renaissance, wrapped in an appreciation of a single painting — all in the context of the COVID Era. Simply spectacular.” Some readers shared their own interpretations of the painting. @MsRosecassidy wrote, “This portrays a great deal of the pain our country is feeling. But more of the hopelessness that is a greater plague than we could have imagined. Where do we go from here? What will be molded into? It all depends on who we surround ourselves with.”
*This article appears in the June 8, 2020, issue of New York Magazine. Subscribe Now!