New York City/Bradley Beach, N.J.
It’s not just that Bruce Springsteen speaks out about political issues, important as that is [Eric Alterman, “Springsteen’s Political Voice,” April 30]. It’s that he gives voice to his fans’ frustration, despair, longing and hope in a way that ties our lives to a larger sense of community. It’s being at one of the last Giants Stadium shows in 2009 on the edge of tears thinking I will never be in this building again, I will never be able to afford Giants season tickets again, maybe the band will never tour again, we are losing so much we care about in this country… and suddenly Bruce is singing “bring on your wrecking ball” and we all have found a way to sing out our anger together. So the band never did tour all together again, but Bruce gave us a beautiful way to say farewell to Clarence, the Giants did win the Super Bowl and we’ll keep going to the shows as long as we can to sing along with Bruce about hard times and the land of hope and dreams. Plus, nothing will ever beat a summer night on the beach in Jersey watching fireworks and listening to “Sandy” or “Born to Run.”
Giving Us the Willys
East Hampton, N.Y.
Lee Siegel’s extensive and thoughtful comments on Death of a Salesman [“Willy Loman’s Secret,” April 30] are appreciated. But saying Phillip Seymour Hoffman’s performance “establishes [him]as the definitive Willy, and as one of the greatest American actors ever to appear on stage or screen” is over the top.
Those of us long in the tooth remember the 37-year-old Lee J. Cobb as the first Willy, and his performance is the gold standard against which the other four Broadway Willys are measured. To my mind at least, none of them have ever equaled, much less surpassed, Cobb. Siegel saying “every ten years we get the same interpretations” makes me wonder if he has seen all the different performances. George C. Scott played Willy as a violent loony; with Dustin Hoffman, Loman became a wimp; Brian Dennehy’s performance was very much like Hoffman’s, an Everyman overwhelmed by his own mediocrity and expansive dreams.
Clearly, though, Salesman holds a mirror to America, and the reflection today is as unsettling as it was more than sixty years ago—perhaps even more so.
JOSEPH D. POLICANO
Blooming Grove, N.Y.
A student in my literature class at a community college where I was teaching Death of a Salesman taught me something about paying attention: in this case, to the name of Willy’s first son, Biff. We had discussed the ironic significance of the name Happy for the other son, when this student pointed out that Biff backwards is Ffib, an insight of equal if not greater significance. “Attention must be paid” indeed.