Kink, Frankenstein and Other Letters to the Editor

Beyond Vanilla

To the Editor:

The sentence from the introduction of “Kink” quoted in Jazmine Hughes’s review (Feb. 14) is the stuff of high parody. To wit, R. O. Kwon and Garth Greenwell’s anthology of stories serves to “recognize how the questions raised in intimate, kinky encounters — questions of power, agency, identity — can help us to interrogate and begin to rescript the larger cultural narratives that surround us,” each word from the playbook of academic respectability.

How “transgressive” is B.D.S.M. (an abbreviation which apparently needs no introduction to Times readers) when it comes from a major publisher, and presents itself in the anodyne jargon of academe? In other words, how pervy is kink anyway?

Molly Haskell
New York

Drawing the Line

To the Editor:

In reviewing Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s “Prey” (Feb. 14), Jill Filipovic is rightly wary of condemning an entire religion. However, Hirsi Ali’s memoir, “Infidel,” convinced me that the abuses and problems she discussed there are very real in parts of Africa, and doubtless in other heavily patriarchal societies. Filipovic fills space by criticizing Hirsi Ali personally and nit-picking her feminist credentials, but omits the crucial statistics Hirsi Ali provides in “Prey.” Did Filipovic fear the statistics might be too convincing?

According to a 2016 New Yorker article, some half a million women in the United States have been genitally mutilated or are at risk. Is this really just fine? A culture is a value system. Why should we think people will automatically give up theirs when they come here? And in fact, we currently encourage newcomers to keep their original culture: the salad bowl, not the melting pot.

Are we creating a nation of separate tribes, with conflicting ideas of law, and of women’s rights? If there are no limits to tolerance, then we are in trouble — as suggested in a quip attributed to Duc de Broglie: “Let us beware of too much understanding lest we end by too much excusing.”

Olivia Eielson
El Cerrito, Calif.

To the Editor:

Filipovic’s review of “Prey” brought to mind Herbert Marcuse’s 1965 essay “Repressive Tolerance,” in which he examined the inherent dangers and hypocrisy of liberal notions of tolerance. Marcuse suggests that unexamined ideologies of tolerance can mask or even engender illiberal and repressive forces in society. Tolerance of multiculturalism and religious freedom cannot be an invitation to religiously or culturally endorsed intolerance.

MJM Keating
Richmond, Va.

History Mystery

To the Editor:

I nodded with sympathy at Joe Ide’s By the Book answer (Feb. 21) about media representations of “Frankenstein,” which tend to leave audiences with a “dated and banal” misconception of Mary Shelley’s masterpiece. Students at Boston University, where I teach, are often surprised by the creature’s fragile and complexly human psychology; they also find rich, suggestive layers of meaning in the fact that Frankenstein is the name of the scientist.

Two other points from the interview stood out. First was Ide’s comment that, while Edgar Allan Poe is often heralded as the “originator of both horror and science fiction,” it was Mary Shelley who got there first. It’s a minor corrective, but Shelley herself was emerging from a history of Gothic literature that dates back at least half a century before her.

The second point is so suitably ironic I have to believe it’s intentional. Ide mentions that Sherlock Holmes is the first literary detective, but it was in fact Edgar Allan Poe who wrote the first detective stories, four decades before Arthur Conan Doyle. C. Auguste Dupin first appeared in Poe’s 1841 story “The Murders in the Rue Morgue.”

Jonathan Najarian

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