Letters from our readers.
Feb. 13 1998 3:30 AM

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Mad About Jew

In Jeffrey Goldberg's "My Nanny Problem," he notes: "By contrast, the image of Jewish men has undergone a renovation in recent years. Nebbishness has alchemized into sensitivity. Take the Paul Reiser character on Mad About You. He's whiny and feminized, but women tell me they find him doting and caring (me, I just see the whiny, feminized part)."

Reiser's character on Mad About You, Paul Buchman, is supposed to be Italian. When Paul and Jamie get married, it's a nondenominational ceremony. Is he Jewish? That's left up in the air. You might say, "Well, he sounds Jewish," or "The actor is Jewish," or "Mel Brooks and Sid Caesar played his uncles," but that skirts the issue, which is how Jews are portrayed on television. To that end, you might say that the conspicuous absence of Jewish issues is the problem. But the complaint in the article is not that TV shows feature too few male Jews. If it were, Mad About You would just be one more in a line of shows presenting evidence of that. Your complaint is about how Jewish men are portrayed on television. Mad About You is not all that useful as evidence precisely because Jewish issues are absent from the show.

--Rich GoldbergSilver Spring, Md.


My Klanny Problem

I would rather not sound like a member of the PC police, but Jeffrey Goldberg talking about his opposition to Jews marrying gentiles in "My Nanny Problem" strikes me as almost racist, and definitely xenophobic. Although he did not offer any reasons for his stance, the only plausible ones would run along the same lines as those offered for white people not marrying blacks or Asians, etc. It is patently offensive on almost all levels. I cannot imagine anything of this sort being allowed in any magazine of decent stature if it were David Duke or Louis Farrakhan upset about an interracial couple on television. I have been a reader of Slate almost from the inaugural issue, and while I am rarely disappointed with what I read, any more of this sort of BS may cost you a potential subscriber. And even if that were not an issue, I am still disappointed with the editorial staff for allowing this sort of manure to published!

--Milton Christopher ApplingIrvington, N.J.



In Michael Lewis' "Losers," about Silicon Valley's culture of forgiving failures, he makes reference to a friend of mine:

A few weeks ago, a Stanford business-school student wrote a gently mocking article in the school newspaper about his summer job on Wall Street and then found himself instantly blackballed from job interviews by every Wall Street firm.

While I hope many of your readers have had the opportunity to read the e-mail version of Tim's (the student's) article, Lewis is completely wrong about the blackballing. Tim has not only been invited to interview at several bulge-bracket firms, he has been warmly received, even by those he lampooned.

Our lesson for today, kids: Brand is everything--go to Stanford if you can.


--Joel Yarbrough

Car Berater

I have followed James Q. Wilson and James Howard Kunstler's "Dialogue" on cars with interest. Wilson certainly seems to have both the better case and the more reasonable tone. Nonetheless, there is some merit in Kunstler's complaints about the ills of sprawl.

May I point out that sprawl is to a large extent the fault of our current local tax system? If we replaced the current property tax on land and buildings with a tax falling solely on the value of land, vacant lots in cities and along the roads leading out of them would be built upon, instead of held for speculation. Then people could live closer to where they work and shop, burn less gasoline when they commute by car, and more often be able to walk. A denser population would also make mass transit more feasible.


--Nicholas Rosen

The Talking Cure

I was irritated at Christopher Benfey's criticism, in "True Confessions" (his review of Ted Hughes' Birthday Letters), of the idea that Sylvia Plath might have been helped by a psychiatrist. Is it really such a strange idea that a suicidally depressed person might benefit from treatment of some kind? I suspect Benfey feels that her early death by suicide was somehow ordained, and has something to do with her status as a poet. This is the kind of sentiment that contributed to her death, and to Hughes' many years of silence.

--Dan KrashinHonolulu


Slate received several letters mourning the retirement of "Dear Prudence," a weekly advice column.

I am dismayed to hear of Prudence's return to her needlework. It is not that I am against needlework. I frequently engage in it myself when stumped by the complexity of an algorithm. It is just that Prudence's advice is Slate's best--some might say only good--facet. Please don't let her leave.

--Dismayed in IowaIowa City, Iowa

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