essays

Jul 1, 1980

Praise for “The National Letters”

“WELL, YOU DID IT. I PUT everything else aside and read the latest Libertarian Review…cover to cover, non-stop.” —Samuel Edward Konkin III

WELL, YOU DID IT. I PUT everything else aside and read the latest Libertarian Review [March] cover to cover, non-stop. When my usual punk rock station didn’t come in due to an “atmospheric disturbance” we were having down here in the middle of Riggenbach’s article on aesthetics, I actually tuned in classical background music. It just seemed to fit so well.

SAMUEL EDWARD
KONKIN III
Long Beach, CA

RIGGENBACH’S ARTICLE on the current state of American letters [March] was fascinating, and might I say, long over-due. There is indeed too little appreciation of much of our fiction, both as an art-form and as a platform of social and philosophical thought.

There is a developing open forum for a blend of both our works, especially as judged by newly arising themes in SF and by the Prometheus Award Committee’s interest in the genre. I sincerely hope that this state of affairs will continue, to both our benefits.

PETER D. PAUTZ
Executive Secretary
Science Fiction Writers
of America, Inc.
Hackettstown, NJ

I WAS EXTRAORDINARILY impressed by Jeff Riggenbach’s “The National Letters” in the March issue. Although I am not well read, I have dabbled in literature here and there; Riggenbach’s theses strike me as true, and have rekindled old urges to read more literature.

And in general, LR is excellent. LR is the only magazine that I read regularly—actions speak louder than words.

JIM STEIN
Woodside, CA

I ENJOYED JEFF RIGGENBACH’S remarks on “The National Letters,” though I have some minor carps. Fowles may be British, but he is still a giant. And Gardner is a schizophrenic. The Gardner who wrote October Light is not the same Gardner who wrote Jason and Medea. They are worlds apart.

FREDERIC REYNOLDS
Fort Lauderdale, FL

Riggenbach replies:

I HAD THREE MAJOR purposes in writing “The National Letters.” I wanted to argue that the fundamental, defining characteristic of American literature is its broadly libertarian spirit. I wanted to decry the snobbish tradition of valuing only those American works which slavishly imitate European (and especially English) models. And I wanted to suggest that there is a clear connection among three current cultural trends which might seem at first glance to be unrelated: the widely noted trend toward libertarian sympathies among voters and taxpayers; the widely noted trend toward general popularity and even, in some quarters (mainly academic), a kind of literary proto-respectability, for science fiction; and the widely noted trend toward a kind of fossilized-while-yet-living cultural irrelevance for the literary establishment. In the course of winding my way toward realization of these purposes, I quite inescapably invested a good deal of space in the business of what may frankly be called “boosting” American literature. In the process I seem to have given a few readers, of whom Mr. Reynolds may be taken as fairly representative, the impression that I see no value in English and other European literature. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, I regard English literature (and Irish literature and Russian literature and German literature and French literature, for that matter, but let us stick with one case in point) as one of the great, enduring monuments of human civilization. I am not prepared to argue that American literature is in any meaningful sense better than this—only that it is different, and in its own way also an enduring monument.

Similarly, I never meant to give the impression that I regard all the members of our current literary establishment as talentless—only that I regard the good books they write (and they do, undeniably, write them from time to time) as good Colonial works rather than as good American works.

Urban renewal and the rights of the poor

WHEN I SAW DOUG BANDOW’S article on the housing crisis, I quickly skimmed over it, hoping to see some mention of the Community Redevelopment Agency’s activities in Los Angeles or elsewhere. I was disappointed when he stated that urban renewal has been discontinued. This is absolutely untrue. Last year, for example, an apartment building in the Pico Union area of Los Angeles was taken by eminent domain so that “Pep Boys” could build a headquarters there. There are redevelopment projects going on all over Los Angeles, and the C.R.A. of the City of Los Angeles is empowered to take land, clear it, and sell it to private developers.

The people being displaced continue to be the poor and politically powerless. The “anti-regulation,” “anti-government” builders work closely with the City Council and the C.R.A. to violate the property rights of the poor.

But I guess I shouldn’t feel too worried because my Councilman, Joel Wachs, said, “There is no way I would support massive, wholesale taking of homes here. You could count on two hands the most I would approve, and those only if the overwhelming majority of the people recognize it’s for the public good.”

ROBERT COLBURN
North Hollywood, CA

Bandow replies:

I APPRECIATE MR. COLBURN’S writing to bring attention to the Los Angeles Community Redevelopment Agency. Space limitations prevented me from discussing it as I would have liked. The particular Federal urban renewal program to which I referred has been discontinued; others, unfortunately, remain, and are no less destructive or immoral…

LR welcomes letters from readers. Letters intended for publication should be typed, double-spaced, and addressed to: Letters to the Editors, The Libertarian Review, 1620 Montgomery Street, San Francisco, California 94111.