Saving the venerable NYPL… cooperation, not capitalism… a jewel in the dross… you could look it up…


Saving the Venerable NYPL

Scott Sherman deserves a lot of credit for helping to stave off what would have been an act of vandalism [“The Battle of 42nd Street,” June 2]. Thank you, and please keep reporting on the New York Public Library.
Hal Grossman
new york city

Gotta get some NYPL trustees elected by the people, as is the policy in many libraries around the country. There’s too much public money in the mix not to have more representation by NYC taxpayers.

I was very pleased by Scott Sherman’s essay, but I must call into question one phrase in it. Mayor de Blasio is a great improvement on Bloomberg, not least for his effort to save the library from being gutted. Sherman asks if the current director will let the decrepit Mid-Manhattan Library deteriorate “so as to sell it down the road to a more developer-friendly mayor?” I submit that Mayor Bill isn’t consistent in his distaste for developers. Witness the fate of a wonderful tradition and tourist attraction, the horse-drawn carriages that for so many years took people into Central Park on slow, clip-clop trips that recalled a less frantic time in the city. I am a horse lover and a rider; my wife and I hired horses from the Clermont Stables (sold to developers) some years back. I know something about horses, and I can attest that the carriage horses were in splendid condition, well trained to their jobs and tended by drivers who truly cared about them. A developer had his eye on the carriage-horse stables and contributed substantially to de Blasio’s campaign. De Blasio maintains his ban is based purely on concern for the horses. That’s a load of horseshit.
Toby Tompkins
new york city

Cooperation, Not Capitalism

It’s exciting to see renewed attention to the cooperative movement in The Nation, [Laura Flanders, “The South Goes Co-op,” June 2]. Cooperative enterprise, based in shared ownership, democratic control and distribution of surplus (or profit) based on use of the business rather than shares held, is a concrete alternative to capitalism. As the name implies, capitalism privileges capital and those who have it, resulting in dramatic divisions of wealth and political influence.

Far from being a new phenomenon, the cooperative found its feet among laborers, artisans and small farmers as a defense against the economic dislocation of the Industrial Revolution in the 1800s, and then spread quickly around the world.

Since 1967, the Federation of Southern Cooperatives (see federation.coop), often described as the economic arm of the civil rights movement, has promoted co-ops as a tool of empowerment for African-American communities marginalized by the mainstream economy. Following on the heels of the global recession, the United Nations promoted co-ops as an effective tool for community empowerment and poverty reduction, declaring 2012 the International Year of Cooperatives. An outstanding question is whether the International Co-operative Alliance’s vision for a “Co-operative Decade” will find traction among communities hungry for a viable participatory economic alternative.

Erbin Crowell
Executive director, Neighboring Food Co-op Association;
Board member, National Cooperative Business Association

shelburne falls, mass.

“A Jewel in the Dross”

The foundation of my loyalty to your fine magazine has been built on the likes of William Deresiewicz, whose compelling work never fails to lift itself above the merely good writing in The Nation’s pages. His brilliant and polished dispatch of the Norwegian author Karl Ove Knausgaard [“Pre-Gossiped,” June 2] is a jewel shining amid the dross of what passes today for literary criticism, which he casually skewers in addition to the hapless K.O.K. as a bonus to a most welcome piece of work. Thank you, W.D., and please keep writing.
Trevor Robinson
san bruno, calif.

Not since a gutsy citizen told the emperor he was stark naked has there been such courage. I hear Knausgaard Googles himself twenty times a day. Makes sense. He’s probably pinching himself at all the acclaim. But as Mr. D. makes clear, before you can be the new Proust, there is that little matter of turning the details of your life into literature.
Sandy Miley
sherrill, n.y.

You Could Look It Up

Maybe he was thinking of muckety-muck, or nabob, or nawab. Or perhaps pooh-bah. Oh, how embarrassing—not only for poet Sebastien Agudelo, but for the Nation editors who failed to catch the blunder. Oh, the irony of that first line! If only the poet had taken his own advice: “If you got to look it up, don’t use it” [“Mugwump,” June 2]. It should have been clear that Auden’s epigraph illustrates a range of types, not a series of synonyms: from the powerless beggar to the omnipotent bigwig and culminating in the neutrality of the mugwump. Oh dear. A wonderful poem. But the wrong word!
Robert Schwartz
oxnard, calif.

The Poetry Editor Replies

It seems Robert Schwartz did not look up “mugwump” in the Oxford English Dictionary, where its primary definition is “an important person, a leader, a boss” (“political fence-sitter” is only its secondary definition). Sebastien Agudelo almost certainly used the OED to guide his poem; Auden’s quote appears there, as does an 1877 quotation from the New York Tribune (“John A. Logan is the Head Center, the Hub, the King Pin, the Main Spring, Mogul, and Mugwump….”) and an 1891 citation from this very magazine: “It has extensively circulated among the Knights of Kadosh and the Most Worshipful Mugwumps of the Cabletow.”
Ange Mlinko

Summer Poem

Lizzy Warren showed the facts
That gave big bankers heart attacks.
Now we’ve seen what she has done,
Lizzy: make a White House run!
Claude E. Mac Innis
billerica, mass.


In the July 7/14 issue, the final sentence of “A Prophetic Moral Vision” by the Rev. William J. Barber should have said, “And if we do it, our children’s children will hallow our name….” Also, the author biography for Carlos Saavedra’s “Winning Public Opinion,” should have said that Kate Werning works for the Movement Mastery Institute.

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