May Todd Akin Rot in Hell—Legitimately

New York City

Katha Pollitt has nailed it again with “Women Who Love Republicans Who Hate Them” [“Subject to Debate,” Sept. 17]. I would just add that Todd Akin’s gag-inducing belief about the spermicidal capacity of women who have been “legitimately” raped goes back a lot further than 1988. According to The Guardian: “One of the earliest British legal texts, Fleta…[says]: ‘If, however, the woman should have conceived at the time alleged in the appeal, it abates, for without a woman’s consent she could not conceive.’” Fleta dates to approximately 1290. Yes, folks, the Republican Party, working to take us back to that golden age, the thirteenth century.



His Nose Just Grows and Grows

Madison, N.J.

Pinocchio! Your ad on page 16 of the September 17 issue is the best picture of Governor Christie! I sent it to him and recommended he subscribe to The Nation.



Still a Difficult Woman

Hayward, Calif.

Victor Navasky’s review of a biography of Lillian Hellman by Alice Kessler-Harris [“The Antagonist,” Sept. 17] was interesting but uninformative—interesting in retelling some incidents in Hellman’s life, uninformative by avoiding others. The good: Hellman’s defiance of HUAC is still an inspiration. She stood foursquare for the “simple rules of human decency and Christian honor.” The reference to Christian honor puzzles me, though, since Hellman was not Christian and since, in light of fascism and vile McCarthyism, “Christian honor” seems to be an oxymoron.

As for the bad: Mary McCarthy attacked Hellman’s autobiographical books as lies. I remember reading those books with admiration for their literary and political style. If the books were in fact a confabulation, my opinion fundamentally changes. So the question is: Were the assertions in those books true (or sort of true) or were they false? I don’t know whether Kessler-Harris gives an answer. Navasky certainly does not. I’d like to know. At least, I’d like to know the opinions of Kessler-Harris and Navasky.



Navasky Replies

New York City

Which facts is Mr. Plotz talking about? Hellman’s three memoirs were filled with thousands of facts and undoubtedly some factoids. If it helps, I’d add that I don’t agree with Mary McCarthy that “every word” Hellman wrote was a lie.



The Highest Caliber


Paula Findlen’s review of Brad Gregory’s The Unintended Reformation [“Scissor Work,” Sept. 17] is excellent—learned and subtle, and she comes to the right conclusion, the same negative one as everybody else, but in a very thoughtful way.

Division for Late Medieval and Reformation Studies
University of Arizona


Corrections: August in Paris…

Thomas Meaney’s “The Generalist” [Oct. 1] refers to the liberation of Paris in May 1944. Paris was liberated in August 1944. It also described de Gaulle’s laissez-faire economic policies as beginning in 1948; they began in 1945. Finally, a clarification: the piece stated that de Gaulle’s crowning economic achievement was establishing the European Economic Community in 1957. While de Gaulle was not in power in 1957, he retailored the Treaty of Rome, which established the EEC, to suit Franco-German needs in the late 1950s.