On Joshua Ferris: Dept of Beg to Differ

Re: “Joshua Ferris, The Unnamed,” posted by Jerome Ludwig, January 29

I love your thought about The Unnamed when you asked “Why the hell wasn’t he in a hospital?” Oh, and what would they treat him for? What hospital would accept any patient without a diagnosis? What therapies would they use on him? What specialty would accept him as a patient? It appears to me that you either didn’t read the book or you are fairly dense—it was “unnamed” and that is why Tim spent his days in terror—he simply did not know (nor did anyone) what the problem was. That’s the story, Jerome, apparently one you missed totally. And yes, I am related to Ferris, but the question elevates beyond relationships to one of good old rational thinking. Try it next time when you read a book of complexity.

chicago chuck

Our Man on the Crackpot Beat

Re: “Mary, on the Contrary: The New York Times obit made radical feminist theologian Mary Daly sound downright sane,” by Cliff Doerksen, January 21

[Re] “Most crackpot literature has a short shelf life: Mary Baker Eddy’s Science and Health With Key to the Scriptures (1875) became a tough sell in the Atomic Age”: that’s an easy sentence to defend since it is writer Cliff Doerksen’s opinion that the book is “crackpot literature” and whatever “tough sell” means. The book in question continues to sell internationally (and reported in Time in 1951 as having increased in sales as the Atomic Age began), the church Eddy founded has thousands of branches throughout the world, until recently published the daily print edition of the respected Christian Science Monitor newspaper, and aside from releasing membership figures quite open in almost every way to anyone, and so on. If you Google “Mary Baker Eddy” and crackpot together there are only some 1,800 results (rising because of this article actually) so I personally don’t think crackpot is the common current assessment. Yes, Eddy was controversial in her day but also revered by many nonbelievers. To put in a sentence such as the one quoted at the beginning of this letter in what seems to be a very well-written article without qualifying statements is irresponsible. Or maybe just the work of a crackpot writing in a periodical that’s a tough sell in the 21st century.

But personally, I don’t believe the latter statement, but do believe the former.

Rob Gillis

Cliff Doerksen replies:

By “tough sell” I meant that Eddy’s writings had lost their once astonishing power to attract and convert new readers. The Church of Christ, Scientist doesn’t publish membership figures, but in 1988 the Chicago Sun-Times was already referring to Christian Scientists as “the endangered species of U.S. religion.” According to data collated by physician Stephen Barrett from the Christian Science Journal, the number of Christian Science practitioners and teachers in the U.S. has dropped from 4,965 in 1971 to 333 in 2009, while the number of Christian Science congregations declined from 1,829 to 911 in the same period. As for the “common current assessment” of Eddy’s stature as a thinker, I have to question whether such a beast exists (http://www.quackwatch.org/01QuackeryRelatedTopics/cs.html).

Careful Who You Vote For

Re: “The Real Estate King of the Chicago City Council: 26th Ward alderman Roberto Maldonado,” by Ben Joravsky and Mick Dumke, August 19

It is astonishing to me on review of several of the aldermen’s financial disclosure statements how little investment these people have in the city of Chicago. Here are people making about $100,000 a year and most of them own no investment real estate in the city other than their houses. Most have no income outside City Council. No wonder they are all toadying yes-men to the mayor. Otherwise they might loose their jobs and have nothing to fall back on.

Even at the level of simple investment income most claim no capital gains in excess of $5,000 in a year. How many $100,000 a year employees have NO investment income?

I’m all in favor of avoiding conflicts of interests and double dealing but the result of this simplistic view of things is that anybody with much financial acumen is going to stay out of City Council. The result is that we are left with a rubber stamp for the mayor.

The Reader frequently calls on the aldermen to develop backbones. Bottom line is they cannot afford them based on their financial disclosure forms.