I assume your headline -- "Finally, the CIA Gets It Right" -- for the Richard A. Clarke review of Imperial Hubris by Anonymous (Book World, June 27) really means that Anonymous and Clarke have it right. I can't help but wonder about the agency's motives in condoning publication of a book by a still active "CIA official," whether it passed clearance muster or not. I doubt very seriously that a large company would sanction publication of a book by one of its current executives that is highly critical of company policy and management. Since the book clearly bolsters Clarke's arguments about U.S. policy failures, it is hardly surprising that his review is effusive about the author's analysis and "courage." I think "misplaced loyalties" may be a better descriptor. True courage would be to resign one's post when in violent disagreement with policy and management activities, and then publish the alternative view with attribution.
-- BERNARD G. ELLIKER
Stumbling on the Already Famous
Only very rarely do Carolyn See's Friday reviews let a reader down, but her piece on Ann Hood's "wonderful" new collection of stories, The Ornithologist's Guide to Life (Book World, Style, July 16) is doubly disappointing. First, her own shock at never having read or heard of this writer is at least as shocking to this reader of contemporary fiction. Hood's impressive first book, Somewhere off the Coast of Maine, was followed by And Venus Is Blue, a collection that verified the presence of a distinctive new voice (names like Laurie Colwin and Bobbie Ann Mason were invoked in attempts to situate her) and firmly, I thought, established her reputation -- and that was in 1986.
Second, See says of a pair of characters, "Joelle calls a chaise lounge a 'chez'; [her] mother refers to that piece of furniture as a 'chase.' " But shouldn't we properly call it a chaise longue?
-- NEIL D. ISAACS
Chris Bray devotes the first three paragraphs -- nearly half -- of his seven-paragraph review of my book We Were There: Voices of African-American Veterans from World War II to the War in Iraq (Book World, Style, June 30) to a discussion of African American soldiers in the Revolutionary and Civil Wars.
In paragraphs four and five, he criticizes the book for omitting this early history and for starting with the personal stories of vets (the oldest was 87 when I interviewed her) from World War II, fought 60 years ago. I would have loved to have been able to interview surviving vets from the 1700s and 1800s -- if I had found any!
Apparently not having grasped the method or scope of my book, in which "veterans tell their stories in their own voices," Bray continues, in paragraph five, regretting that my book ignores Denzel Washington's role in the film "Glory" as a black front-line infantry soldier in the Civil War. But Bray himself ignores the Hollywood historical that impelled me to find and interview Waverly Woodson, an Army medic who saw action on D-Day. (Did you see even one -- just one -- black man struggle to the beach in Spielberg's "Saving Private Ryan"?) Then, to suggest that his words, and the words of all the vets in the book, are too ordinary for inclusion, Bray quotes out of context one vet, Alfredo Alexander, who relates the story of his days in the jungles of Vietnam. He doesn't mention that Alexander nearly died from his wounds or that when he returned home he succeeded in becoming a dentist despite being 40 percent disabled. In the book, Alexander goes on to say: "One thing that's always bothered me is that black soldiers' stories never get told. . . . You don't see the black perspective, what we went through, and yet there were so many of us there."
-- YVONNE LATTY
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