So Many Books
So Little Time

Dear Lolita Lark:

Congratulations: You have written the first negative review of my book. I'm so pleased you hated it so much, although I wish your criticisms weren't as lightweight (counting the I's on a page! In a memoir! How inventive!) as you believe my opinions are.

If you read closely, you'll see that there are several references to, say, Norman Mailer and his work; the "dancing bear" quote would have made more sense to someone who had read the earlier mentions. Ditto, In Cold Blood, which was on my original to-read list because I had never read it or seen the movie, as I admit, but which I did read during the year, as I discuss in the chapter on Oeuvres. Methinks perhaps you read the book even less carefully than you think I wrote it.

But never mind. I welcome lively discussion. Perhaps you'd like to go back and read the sections on schadenfreude. That is clearly something you know something about.
--- All best,
Sara Nelson

Go to the review of this book

Dear Ms Lark,

I read your review of Gandhi - the Man with interest.

I have to admit to a schoolboy interest in the young girls he slept with so chastely.

I wonder --- does it say in the book what their names were?

It would be interesting to contact them to find their side of the story.

--- Thanks a lot
Gary Dexter

Go to our review of Gandhi the Man

    The following letter was sent to the Buddhist Magazine, Tricycle --- and published in their Summer 2003 issue.

Many, many thanks for the blessing of your Spring 2003 issue. I now hope you won't be offended by a letter that is politically (and Tricyclically!) incorrect, and that differs from the "standard opinion."

Robert Thurman made several interesting points in his article "Cool Heroism," and he eloquently expressed his anger and his frustration with American warmongering. He demonstrated realism and courage in addressing the complex issues of justice and violence in an imperfect, dukkha-ridden world.

Four implied ideas seem commendable: that an unwanted option like force may not always be the worst available option; that force should be considered only if no reasonable alternative exists (but when used, used decisively); that any force must be managed with mindfulness and humaneness; and that a positive goal must be intended.

Nevertheless, the article showed astonishing unfamiliarity with post-World War II American military doctrine and training, and with the limitations of military power. Furthermore, the article appeared to grossly misrepresent the people in the American military.

The assertion that postwar American military power relies primarily on "carpet bombing" of civilians, "blanket annihilative violence," and "civilian bombing" is wrong, at best. The American military has tried to apply the classical principle of concentrated and massed force, but this is hardly synonymous (or compatible) with carpet bombing or killing babies.

On the contrary, the American military has made remarkable efforts to avoid civilian casualties (even when the adversary takes advantage of this sensitivity); it has made unprecedented attempts to develop and deploy highly accurate weaponry (which has greatly reduced civilian damage); it has shown commendable flexibility and progress in correcting institutional errors; and it has integrated items like the Law of Armed Conflict into training and planning. (Experts familiar with the Law of Armed Conflict are veto-wielding members of the strategic targeting team, and adherence to this law is a graded part of nearly every field exercise.)

We should recognize these efforts, although a single death is a death too many. Sure, in conflict things do not always proceed as planned (I also doubt if a surgeon invented the phrase "surgical precision," and perfection is elusive even in the relatively abstract world of academia), but saying the American military advocates and practices a wholesale, wanton killing of innocent civilians (or even combatants) is just plain wrong and effectively slanders the motives and integrity of those who make the sacrifice of wearing a military uniform.

The Tricycle editorial staff might also want to research American military doctrine, practice, and training so they will perform as well as they normally do when editing future articles. Perhaps it is not out of place for the staff to request some directed metta for those whose duties include our protection --- including our armed forces, our police, our firefighters, our parents, and all who have put their lives at significant risk to help us.

--- Dr. Victor P. Bradford
Colorado Springs, Colorado