Nixon’s Tricks, Antarctic Expeditions and Other Letters to the Editor – The New York Times

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To the Editor:
I finished reading “Shackleton: The Biography,” by Ranulph Fiennes, several days before I read the slightly mocking review of the book by the noted author, scientist, biologist and penguin expert Lloyd Spencer Davis (Feb. 13).
Far from having the expertise Davis can claim, my sole credential is being obsessive about Ernest Shackleton and Antarctica, and while I have read several biographies and tales of his explorations, and visited Antarctica myself as a tourist, until reading this book I was primarily taken with his almost mythic leadership successes on those quests. Fiennes gave me a new appreciation of the quests themselves.
Davis suggests that the best way to read the book is to imagine Sir Ranulph telling you his story in a pub; even without the suggestion, I found myself hearing his voice as I read. I found the book engaging, horrifying and enlightening, and even though it was light on bibliographical references and sourcing, as Davis laments, that did not detract from the experience.
Fiennes’s own trans-Antarctic trek, which Davis characterizes as inserting “himself into the story,” gave Shackleton’s quest context. Understanding what else was happening in the world, including the sinking of the Titanic, World War I and the socioeconomic climate that inspired so much exploration at the beginning of the century, added to my appreciation of the new biography.
The Times reported on Feb. 4 that a team of researchers was en route to the Weddell Sea to find the wreckage of Shackleton’s ship, the Endurance; this suggests that passion and interest in Shackleton, Scott and the polar expeditions of a century ago continue to be strong, and not just among scientists.
Betsy Frank
Mattituck, N.Y.
To the Editor:
In his review of Garrett Graff’s book “Watergate: A New History” (Feb. 20), Douglas Brinkley states that Richard Nixon’s “refusal to immediately pull troops out of Vietnam, coupled with his administration’s illegal incursions into Cambodia and Laos, had earned him a villainous reputation.” Those too young to remember might get the impression that it was Nixon’s management of the Vietnam War that was the source of that reputation. Actually, Nixon was considered a villain by much of the country based on his 1946 House campaign and his 1950 Senate campaign, in which he vilified his Democratic challengers, not to mention the presidential campaigns against John Kennedy and Hubert Humphrey. After his unsuccessful 1962 run for governor in California, he was widely considered a sore loser. (“You don’t have Nixon to kick around anymore,” he said after the loss.) In truth, Richard Nixon earned his reputation and the moniker “Tricky Dick” long before the 1970s and Watergate.
Cory Franklin
Wilmette, Ill.
To the Editor:
Jennifer Wilson’s review of Alejandro Zambra’s novel “Chilean Poet” (Feb. 20) argues that excellent and prolific translators like Megan McDowell are helping to drive interest in Latin American literature. Another reason is easier reader access to Spanish-language literatures and their translations via ebooks and online platforms. Small nonprofit presses like Deep Vellum in Dallas, White Pine Press in Buffalo and Scotland’s Charco Press have published outstanding translations of splendid writers like Sergio Pitol, Perla Suez and Gabriela Cabezón Cámara, among others. Personally, I would like to see the Book Review highlight more of the work of these smaller presses, and also review Spanish-language books. This is not an outlandish idea in light of the fact that over 13 percent of the U.S. population is composed of Spanish-speaking communities, and this number is growing.
Christopher Conway
To the Editor:
Well, I finally finished the Dec. 5 Holiday Books issue. Bring on Summer Reading!
Larry Halperin
Los Angeles
The Newly Published column on Feb. 20 misstated the title of a book by Laura Shin. It is “The Cryptopians,” not “The Cryptonians.” The column also misstated the book’s price. It is $32, not $18.99.