Boston-area arts letters

Francois Duhamel/Fox Searchlight

Vestiges of slavery
are still with us today

I took Ty Burr’s admonishment, “Don’t dare look away,” to heart when I saw “12 Years a Slave” (“Taken into bondage,” g, Oct. 25) . His powerful review challenged me to see this film — and to keep my eyes wide open to its horror. I came out knowing that we as a nation will never integrate this most infamous of American legacies unless we face the terror slavery wrought over and over again on those tortured to do the bidding of the powerful who profited from their blood. Yes, slavery was alive and well even in the North for a long time after it was outlawed, yet as a native Southerner I am bound to the very ground on which women were raped and flogged, children were stolen never to see their mothers again, and men were beaten as mules in the fields until they dropped dead.

Last night my eyes were temporarily drawn from the screen by the young African-American woman who ran sobbing from the theater as the master’s whip mutilated his rape victim, the master’s wife crying out for more. We white folks have been unwilling to grapple with what our ancestors perpetrated, and have denied that vestiges of slavery continue to this very day in the prevalence of racism across our nation. Boston remains a far more segregated society than that of my home state Georgia, and still I wince to admit what King Cotton did to the millions stolen from their African homes and to whose progeny I, as a white American, owe a great debt. I understand better now the reason given by my great-grandfather, who volunteered to serve in the US cavalry during the Civil War, when his grandson asked him why he didn’t join the Confederate army: “I didn’t think one man should own another man.” He had room in his heart and mind to see such injustice because he, poor and illiterate, picked his own cotton.

We are blind to the misery of those whose lives secure our comfort. The horrors Steve McQueen’s film forces us to watch are not in a distant past — and if we deny that, we are complicit in perpetuating the legacy of slavery.




Hole, lotta love

Get The Weekender in your inbox:
The Globe's top picks for what to see and do each weekend, in Boston and beyond.
Thank you for signing up! Sign up for more newsletters here

It’s about time that someone wrote a review about the wonderful series starring antihero Harry Hole by Jo Nesbo (“ ‘Police’ shot through with Nesbo’s trademark intensity,” g, Oct. 25). I have purchased and read all of them, with “Police” sitting on my reading table now.

His turn of phrase, his character development, and the brilliant translations by Don Bartlett should not be missed. But I would have recommended that a new reader start at the very beginning with “The Bat” to be able to sort out the characters and follow Harry in his personal and professional quests. “The Bat” is not his best, but it is the place to start, and then prepare for some very great reads.



Access to great art

Thanks to Sebastian Smee for the article on the Worcester Art Museum’s “[remastered]” exhibit (“New look at Old Masters in Worcester exhibit,” SundayArts, Oct. 27) and for reminding me of the great works that I do not need to hop on an airplane to see.




One to watch on NBC

I enjoyed reading Matthew Gilbert’s piece on NBC (“NBC: nonstop bad choices,” SundayArts, Oct. 27). He is doing terrific work at the Globe.

One show I’d like to point out that is often overlooked: “Parenthood.” I applaud NBC for staying with the show, despite its tepid ratings. It is one of the few warm dramas on TV, and it is the one show we watch as a family. Terrific ensemble cast, solid writing, and a broad canvas of story lines.



Joy in the air at BSO

What a joy to attend last Friday’s concert of the Boston Symphony Orchestra. The excitement was palpable from the beginning. The ovation before a note was played set the tone for the afternoon. It was obvious that the orchestra enjoys working with its director designate, Andris Nelsons. The sound was lush and rich. The high point of the afternoon was when we reentered the hall after intermission and the sun was streaming in through the windows high above. It seemed an omen of good things to come.




Letters for publication should include writer’s name, address, and daytime phone number for verification. Letters are subject to editing. Send to