Letters & Comments: January 28, 2010 | Letters | Chicago Reader

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Letters & Comments: January 28, 2010

"Burroughs totally owned his nihilism, cultivated an aura of evil, and won ambivalent renown as the Creepy Old Hipster Uncle of American letters."

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Voting Guides

Re: "Election Confusion? Mick Dumke and Ben Joravsky take a look at the races that could have the most impact on your life," January 21

You are doing something right since "my" Reader box by the Forest Glen Metra station was empty on Friday morning (and usually few issues are available till Sat). I used your review of politicians to create my Anna's list for my Democratic/independent friends who do not have time to check on our candidates running for offices. Thank you very much to all of you who took time to work on those reviews.

Anna Klocek

Missed Connections

Re: "Cream of the Crap: As far as bad movies go, The Book of Eli is a good one," by Cliff Doerksen, January 21

350 words into this review we finally get to the review. Ugh. Self-referential ironic wit only works when we care about the subject matter or the reviewer can pull in other genre-related references to make the original piece being reviewed relevant to a larger cultural discussion. "Anyway . . . " that's what "I" think . . .


Cliff Doerksen replies:

Genre-related references related to a larger cultural discussion? It's not too late. Fold these into the batter, bake, and serve: Panic in the Year Zero, Soylent Green, Mad Max III: Beyond Thunderdome, Pale Rider, The Bed-Sitting Room, Welcome to Blood City, No Blade of Grass.

Crazy Talk

Re: "Mary, on the Contrary: The New York Times obit made radical feminist theologian Mary Daly sound downright sane," by Cliff Doerksen, January 21

If we're going to savage Mary Daly so mercilessly for her gynocentric fantasies of a postfeminist future, then we should practice a bit of gender equity by citing works such as William Burroughs's phallocentric utopias (The Wild Boys et al.) as well. It could be argued, I suppose, that as a theologian Daly was going beyond fiction to give us a portrait of a Promised Land that she truly believed could and would come about. Nonetheless, Burroughs was pretty adamant throughout most of his life that he also intended to write his fantasies "into existence," and that one of those fantasies was an all-male world, liberated from the venomous influence of the alien "other half."

Heterophobia as a literary trope isn't a topic that's received a lot of critical attention, as far as I know—such writings are usually discussed in terms of their feminist or anti-feminist implications, not as examples of a larger theme that may transcend gender. Maybe a serious study of Burroughs and Daly in this context (as well as Andrea Dworkin, Bryon Gysin, and other logical candidates) is overdue.

David G. Whiteis

Cliff Doerksen replies:

You make an interesting comparison. Here are what I see as some telling distinctions:

(1) Burroughs totally owned his nihilism, cultivated an aura of evil, and won ambivalent renown as the Creepy Old Hipster Uncle of American letters. Whereas Daly relentlessly preached her own cosmic righteousness and was exalted as the paragon of "feminist ethics."

(2) I've never met anyone whose concepts of history were influenced by Burroughs's daffy sci-fi/vaudevillian cosmology. But I've met plenty who sincerely believe, per Daly's obscurantist fables, that the three key events of the human past are (a) a fall from grace in a lost matriarchal paradise, (b) the survival of an underground tradition of pagan goddess worship, and (c) the repressive burning of nine million Earth-nurturing "woman healers" as witches. And all of these people paid to get that way in college, which I find unutterably sad.

Finally, I don't recall any obituarists tidying up Burroughs's curriculum vitae when he died. It's a fun assignment to think about, though: One could write about his "early, unsuccessful marriage," his "intellectual openness to challenging ideas," his "lifelong advocacy and practice of consumer independence from pharmaceutical regulation," the "richly idiosyncratic explorations of human sexuality" in his writings, and so on.

Mind you, Burroughs and Daly were both ardent cat fanciers, and maybe even could have bonded over that.

To Whom Go the Spoils?

Re: "The Case for Selling Off the City," by Mick Dumke, January 14

I suspect that most people must be reminded that the post office was privatized in 1971, and like our infamous parking meters, the cost to the public is almost quadrupled. A letter now costs 44 cents, but it would be 12 cents if the rate from 1917 (3 cents) to 1971 (8 cents) had continued unchanged. I strongly favor nationalization.

At present, the new parking meters seem so stupid and abusive to me that I think 45 members of the City Council were robotized to pass this. My letter of September 11 explained how exorbitant the secret $50 fine is, and how the dashboard receipt system is unnecessary with numbered parking spaces. Did the Reader find out if the new landlord of the parking spaces controls the size of the fine, or does the City Council control this? What are all the other parking fines? Are they $50 for all offenses even blocking a fire station door?

Stuart Simon

Mick Dumke replies:

For information about fines and violations, you'll want to consult with the Chicago Department of Revenue, which does a good job of posting information on its Web site (tinyurl.com/y9nrpyb).

As for your question about the meter lease agreement: The private operator of the system, Chicago Parking Meters LLC, has the right to write tickets for meter violations. Technically, the City Council retains control of fine amounts and the city keeps all the money that's collected. But like everything having to do with this deal, there's a catch. The city is required to notify and potentially compensate CPM if it makes changes that could reduce the company's meter income. For example, currently the city can boot cars that have three tickets. If city officials suddenly decided to be generous and raise the number to four or five tickets, the city would owe Chicago Parking Meters some money; the exact amount would be computed factoring in how often spaces are used and where they're located, among other variables.

But since the city is desperate for revenue these days, don't expect any such acts of mercy anytime soon.

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