Letters

Southern California-born Steve Lowery receives mail in such volume that he long ago stopped bothering to answer it personally. His New York-born assistant, Carmine, responds: Now why ya gotta be bustin' Mr. Lowery's bawls like that, huh? Why? It's bad manners, for one thing—and Mr. Lowery, well, he's very sensitive. Things like this, they offend him. And it's not good to offend Mr. Lowery. Not good at all. Trust me. Now I got some advice for you, and I suggest you pay close attention: pull your Greenwich Village head outta your Bowery Boy ass. Keep it out for about five seconds. If you're smart—and gettin' through community college in two years, you're obviously not stupid—that should be long enough to realize your goddamn letter actually proves Mr. Lowery's most-excellent point. And then I suggest that you sit down and write another letter. And this time, be nice. Be very, very nice.

'GOING SANE'

This may be nitpicking, since the purpose of the OC Weekly is to sell ads and tell us where the "culture" is, not to be culture itself. In "Ken Kesey Kultur Kampf" (Aug. 31), Paul Brennan goes on about how the theme of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest is that madness is a truer, more creative and liberating way of perceiving the world than sanity. But this theme does not exist in either the book or the movie based on it. Did we read the same book? Oh, that's right—Brennan didn't read the book. In fact, he sounds a little jaunty about admitting it. Is it possible that, like Brennan, the "intelligent friend" to whom the idea really belongs is so confused by postmodern culture he just feels like he's read the book? If Brennan really had read the book, he'd know that the theme is the opposite of "madness is positive." One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest is about going sane. That is what's being celebrated when the narrator escapes from the asylum (for Brennan's benefit, that comes at the end of the book). Taking up the cause of defending a book you haven't read in order to defend intellectual freedom against "them yokels" is one thing. Going on about its imagined premise and passing this off as cultural criticism, seems very, well, d'oh!

Burt Griswold
via e-mail

Editor Will Swaim responds: When I taughtCuckoo's Nest to university freshmen, I occasionally ran across horrible misunderstandings of its simple theme. I thought those dark days were behind me. And now your note arrives. It's not enough that I edit all day and then go home to do dishes, change diapers and listen to my neighbors debate the virtues of shades of beige exterior house paint. Now I'm expected to teachCuckoo's Nest again. Ready then, Burt? Here it is: the good guys inCuckoo's Nest are nominally insane; their overlords are nominally sane. As the novel progresses, it becomes increasingly clear that what's at stake is the very definition of "sanity." Kesey's sense is that the idea of sanity is hegemonic and so brutalizing that "insanity" is the only reasonable response (cf. Jean Genet, Michel Foucault and other Frenchmen). The only way out is to transcend that framework in death (McMurphy's murder) or through literal escape (the Chief's bolt out the window). If this theme and Kesey's straw characters (Nurse Ratched may be one of the most Dickensian characters in late 20th-century literature) really intrigue you, you might consider reading as an antidote the philosopher Ken Wilber, paying special attention to his notion of the pre/trans fallacy ("anything nonrational gets swept up and indiscriminately glorified as a direct route to the Divine, including much that is infantile and regressive and prerational") and the social critic Tom Frank (who points out that such prerational behavior is essential to marketplace consumption—see hisThe Conquest of Cool). Finally: Brennan wasn't defending the book but criticizing it. And theWeekly doesn't exist to sell ads or "be culture itself." It's a multimillion-dollar trap designed to lure letter writers into acts of self-humiliation. And it works.

HER STAND IN THE GRANDSTANDS

Come on, Rebecca! You don't ever cross a picket line (Rebecca Schoenkopf's Commie Girl, Sep. 7). Sure, disagree with the tactics and the goals of the strikers—we should always maintain a healthy criticism of such things—but don't cross a picket line. Ever. Labor has enough trouble in this country. Yes, the refs strike sucks. And their reasons are perhaps less than noble. But solidarity is, I think, more important than seeing a Raiders game. In the end, you are simply trying to rationalize a decision that you know in your heart was wrong.

While NFL referees aren't exactly in the same class as SEIU members, the principle of labor over management should still hold something in the 21st century. And lest you think I'm too heartless and critical, your paper's cover story on the Shack kicked ass. Everyone knows white supremacy is alive and well in OC; it's just something we never discuss.

Robert Cruickshank
via e-mail

Rebecca Schoenkopf responds: I'm sorry, Robert. I'm feeling surly and not quite saintly enough to sacrificeanything for those who (a) don't need me—they're doing quite well with their corporate-VP day jobs—and (b) are themselves about as likely to stand behind those with real struggles as they are to recognize the Nike boycott. Or didn't you notice that swoosh on their stripes? That's child labor, Robert—child labor behind locked doors, 13 hours per day. And guess what? They're still starving. The referees can go to hell.

As for my boyfriend: hey, absolutely not your business. Thanks for playing!
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