Are Horses More Useful to Humans Than Pigeons? And Other Letters to the Editor

Hold Your Horses

To the Editor:

In Nate Blakeslee’s mostly favorable review of Matthew Gavin Frank’s “Flight of the Diamond Smugglers: A Tale of Pigeons, Obsession, and Greed Along Coastal South Africa” (March 21), Blakeslee writes, in reference to pigeons, that “no other animal aside from the dog has been as useful to humans.”

Really? I daresay that in a contest between pigeons and horses as to usefulness to humans, the horse would win by several strides.

Michael Golden
Great Neck, N.Y.

To the Editor:

Blakeslee writes that “no other animal aside from the dog has been as useful to humans.”

One might say that no other writer has been as blatantly neglectful of horses. It’s doubtful that Richard III or anyone else ever offered his kingdom for a pigeon.

Stuart Altschuler
New York

Imperialisms Past

To the Editor:

If Fareed Zakaria’s review of Samir Puri’s “The Shadows of Empire: How Imperial History Shapes Our World” (March 21) is correct, I believe that Puri has picked in Brexit a poor example to support his thesis that the world is still recovering from the fall of empires.

Britain’s participation in the Iraq war may have been ill advised, but it was not an attempt to rebuild the British Empire. Nor was Brexit another such attempt. Quite the opposite. Brexit was the culmination of the growing realization that Britain was becoming a vassal state to the ever-expanding and intrusive, both geographically and politically, European Union superstate.

Zakaria’s reference to Boris Johnson speaking of a “global Britain” continuing a historic mission around the world is political hyperbole and to be expected from elected officials. Nevertheless, undoubtedly it is true that Britain wishes to renew and reinforce its ties to the English-speaking world.

The English-speaking world shares three traits not found in the European Union: that the people bestow ultimate legitimacy on government through representative bodies; that human rights are God-given and inalienable and not the gift of privileged political elites; and that law emerges organically from society (the Common Law) and not from the administrative state. All three of these traits spring from perhaps the greatest political document in the history of the world: Magna Carta.

Patrick Barron
West Chester, Pa.

To the Editor:

Fareed Zakaria notes that the United States thinks of itself as anti-imperialist and relies on economic alliances. He mentions its military bases, but doesn’t mention that the U.S. military has committed aggression in foreign lands in all but 11 years of its existence. The United States reportedly maintains 800 military bases abroad.

As an imperial power, we have orchestrated the overthrow, sometimes directly, of regimes in Iran (1953), Guatemala (1954), Chile (1973), Haiti (2004) and Bolivia (2019), among others. We are still trying to undermine the Cuban government through economic sanctions, after the Bay of Pigs invasion failed.

The great Venezuelan hero Simón Bolívar is attributed with saying that “the United States appears to be destined by Providence to plague America with misery in the name of liberty.” That applies to our still existing imperialism.

Roger Carasso
Santa Fe, N.M.

Form and Substance

To the Editor:

Jessica Winter’s essay, “Our Autofiction Fixation” (March 21), reminded me of a quote from a 1992 Cormac McCarthy interview in Der Spiegel: “Books are made out of books. … If writing had anything to do with life, everyone would be an author.” McCarthy surely overstates the point. But it seems that the recent obsession with an author’s “voice” obscures the fact that great writing also relies on “form” to give structure and artistry to voice.

That doesn’t mean everybody should try to write like James Joyce, or that autobiographical fiction can’t be exciting. And of course crafting a book “out of books” can lead to unexciting, derivative work. But it must be possible to forge a happy coalition between the authentic voice of an author and considerations of form and literary heritage — and I get the feeling that the latter is neglected in autofiction.

Luke Hallam
Cambridge, Britain

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