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A nuanced reading of ‘canceled’ writers

Author Norman Mailer in 2003KATHY WILLENS/Associated Press

Let readers determine for themselves

Thanks to Michael Mailer for his cogent defense of free speech and the spectrum of his father’s oeuvre (”Canceling my father, Norman Mailer: The US needs to stop eating its own,” Opinion, Feb. 3). Like everyone, Mailer had his flaws. Those foibles do not diminish the artistic reach of his vibrant fiction or the myriad insights found in his trenchant essays. It would be appropriate to acknowledge this centenary year of the publication of James Joyce’s “Ulysses.” For a time, that monumental work was deemed obscene and banned in this country. A wise judge named John M. Woolsey of the United States District Court in New York actually took the time to carefully read Joyce’s book. As then, it remains ever a challenge to follow Leopold Bloom’s thoughts and peregrinations about Dublin in 1904. In his courtroom on Dec. 6, 1933, Woolsey determined that “Ulysses” was not a prurient production. Minutes after this pronouncement, Bennett Cerf of Random House put his typesetters to work making Joyce’s masterpiece available to the American reading public. Like Mailer, Joyce had his own faults. Let the mature reader determine for themselves whether or not to spend time with an author and their work of literature.


Joe Martin

Seattle, Wash.

If there is a ‘woke mob,’ why haven’t others been canceled?

So Random House has promised to “promote Mailer’s back catalog” instead of publishing a new collection? And Michael Mailer is chiding what he derisively calls the “woke mob” for canceling his father, Norman Mailer? I hardly think so. People who want to read Mailer can easily do so. Knowing about an artist’s problematic personal life makes their legacy more complicated or tarnished, but doesn’t erase them. As a former librarian, I will always defend free speech and access to books and ideas. In that spirit, I applaud those who raise questions and doubts about who gets published and why. And if there really is a powerful “woke mob,” why haven’t we been able to “cancel” men whose alleged treatment of women has been unapologetically appalling, like Donald Trump, Brett Kavanaugh, and Matt Gaetz?


Cyrisse Jaffee