Letters to the Editor

Readers write about food aid, carbon-neutral businesses, and truth in memoir.

The US needs to rethink its approach to food aid

In response to the May 7 article, "Is US doing enough to end food crisis?": The cash President Bush is offering to address the immediate food crisis will be welcomed in the recipient countries, but the United States needs to look beyond today's response and rethink its whole approach to food aid and trade. Using cash to buy food locally instead of sending surplus commodities is a start, but only that.

Because of the crushing burden of foreign debt, countries that could easily feed themselves are exporting food while their citizens go hungry. International agribusinesses are earning record profits as food riots rage. Global trade policies that prioritize profits over public welfare have emptied food reserves, which are now at their lowest levels worldwide since 1947. And those same policies restrict poor countries from protecting their domestic food production from foreign corporate control.

To address the roots of the food crisis, we must provide rural development aid instead of just food, forgive odious debts, control speculation and corporate malfeasance, and make food trade fair, not just "free."

Jim Harkness
Minneapolis, Minn.

President, Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy

Remember carbon costs of shipping

Regarding the May 7 article, "How green is that shirt?": In evaluating the "greenness" of a product, let's factor in energy use and carbon emissions attributable to transportation.

There's a significant environmental cost to moving raw materials to third-world countries for cheap labor, then shipping the finished product thousands of miles away to consumers willing to pay a premium for such goods.

Peter Javsicas

Can memoirs ever be 'real'?

In response to the May 9 article, "Whose truth: veracity and the modern memoir": As a former senior-level editor at several publishing houses with a 25-year history in a constantly changing industry, I can say with at least some level of expertise that memoirs playing fast and loose with the unvarnished truth is nothing new.

Having sat in my fair share of editorial meetings over the years, I have witnessed countless instances where editors are asked to go back to an author and require some level of "fabulous-ness" meant to set the work apart somehow from the vast sea of other books that will invariably be "like" it.

Also, as a writer engaged in the writing of both nonfiction and fiction, I find that my truth may not be your truth; what my father told me about his naval missions may not be what he told you, for example, and so the business of memoir – with the passage of time – becomes grayer and grayer.

Add to this fact the often desperate attempts by publishers to turn a book into something that it never was at the time of submission, and you've got a recipe for potential disaster.

Until someone creates a new "rulebook" wherein memoirs must be empirically "true" and fiction must be "made up," the line will always be hazy.

Elissa Altman
Newtown, Conn.

In response to the recent article on truth in memoir: David Sedaris's neologism, "real-ish," quoted from the preface of his next book, is Orwellian newspeak. It's right up there with Stephen Colbert's darkly satiric term, "truthiness." Using a term like "real-ish" defines what the content of the book is not – i.e., real.

Howard Zimmerman
New York

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