Wonderful gifts for less than a dollar

In Rushworth M. Kidder's fine ``Perspective'' on the significance of Christmas [Dec. 17], one sentence struck home: ``All of us, I suspect, can remember wonderful gifts, from very special people, that cost less than a dollar.'' I can remember two: a huge, large-print, illustrated volume of ``Favorite Fairy Tales'' from Aunt Mary, and (a few years later) a kangaroo-logoed pocket book, Pearl Buck's ``The Good Earth'' from half-sister Ruth. But I am well over fifty years of age, and these gifts were purchased during the Great Depression. Less than one dollar? Yes, indeed. Is Mr. Kidder's memory equally long? Dorothy J. Gjessing, Winooski, Vt.

After awakening to another leaden winter sky on the outskirts of Santa Fe, I was amused to read in your travel section article on Santa Fe (Dec. 14) how the morning sky here is nothing but blue. I was also amused by the claim that a ten-minute drive in any direction from the center of town will lead to the primitive and untouched aspect of Santa Fe. In fact, several routes from the center will lead one in ten minutes' time to various scenes of all-American fastfood strips, undifferentiated suburban housing sprawls, and blighted barrios. Some of us in Santa Fe are tiring of articles that depict our city in glossy, exploitive terms and fan the flames of an exploding commericalism that has been steadily devouring old Santa Fe. Speculative real estate schemes have run rampant; soaring rents have forced mom-and-pop businesses to give way to tinsel boutiques; cheap cinder block and frame houses, apartments, and shopping malls have proliferated, contrary to your article's assertion that ``Just about every building is of adobe.''

The national press has helped to encourage a booming, inflated surge of development here that is now showing signs of collapse. Still new development schemes continue to emerge and to tap our dwindling water resources. Whitman Johnson, Tesuque, N.M.

In your editorial ``American theater: time for a revival'' [Dec. 18] you state that a ``paucity of first-rate scripts and playwrights'' is related to its financial problems. No one would dispute that, but as a struggling playwright, let me give you the rest of the story. With a few exceptions, much of the winnowing and developmental process is philistine. Certainly the O'Neill Center is close to the ideal in its developmental approach, but it is carrying too heavy a load in the country. What is needed is an adequate number of well-funded, truly experimental theaters run by enlightened managers who will not push the playwright into a commercial box and who have faith that there is an unbiased audience willing to be exposed to new ideas.

Theater artists have proved their willingness to forsake commercialism when a genuine opportunity for artistic growth has been given them. What needs to emerge is the entrepreneur with vision. The funding and talent will follow. Betty Lokey, Raleigh, N.C.

Letters are welcome. Only a selection can be published and none individually acknowledged. All are subject to condensation. Please address letters to ``readers write.''

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