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The Weekly Standard has had the neat idea of asking readers to send in letters to the editor that they (the readers) have written to publications like The New York Times, but that did not get printed. The Standard’s first specimen of this “unfit to print” epistolary sub-genre was from a chap in Texas who wanted to know why the Times referred to the Southern Baptists and the Assemblies of God as “historically white evangelical denominations.” The Times has never (claimed Tex) prefixed the Sundance Film Festival, the Renaissance Weekend, or the Episcopal Church with the qualifier “historically white,” though it would fit those institutions just as well. (In the case of that last, we can now say “historically straight,” I think … but let’s leave that issue alone for a while.)

In the same spirit, I thought I would offer NRO readers some unpublished letters to the editor from my own files. None of the following made it into print, for reasons which I am sure will be as mysterious to you as they are to me.


To the Editor
New York Review of Books
1755 Broadway, New York

Dear Editor,

I note that in your issue dated November 6:

  • Russell Baker, reviewing Paul Krugman’s The Great Unraveling, remarks that “He [Krugman] has not said much about the Bush administration’s astonishing switch to a unilateral policy of making preemptive war against nations the President considers dangerous.”
  • Ronald Dworkin, in his article “Terror & the Attack on Civil Liberties,” asserts that: “The Bush administration has ignored or violated many fundamental individual rights and liberties,” and that the overall strategy of the Bush administration is “immoral.”
  • Steven Weinberg, reviewing a shelf full of books about warfare up to WW2, spends most of a column pooh-poohing the administration’s efforts at missile defense.
  • Margaret Atwood’s review of Studs Terkel’s new book closes with an anti-administration quotation from Rep. Dennis Kucinich.
  • Joan Didion’s long article “Mr. Bush & the Divine” attempts to show that our President is in thrall to “the … fantasies of the ideologues in the Christian fundamentalist ministries.” (Note: President Bush in fact attends services with a moderate-to-liberal Methodist congregation.)

There are no articles of any kind offering the least hint of approval of the current administration’s policies, nor any word of praise for our President. Perhaps a more apt title for your publication would be The New York Critique of Bush.

Regards, John Derbyshire


To the Editor
New York Post
1211 Avenue of the Americas, New York

Dear Editor,

Your report of a tragic subway suicide (Oct. 16) describes the deceased as “quietly laying in front of a fast-moving subway train.” What was she laying? Carpet? Linoleum? Plans? Later you tell us that the unfortunate woman “laid down as the train approached.” Oh, so it was down she was laying. But was it goose down or swan’s down? Perhaps we could ax the witnesses.

Yours sincerely, John Derbyshire


To the Editor
New Yorker
4 Times Square, New York

Dear Editor,

I am sorry to see from your letter of the 19th that you thought the short story I submitted to you back in April “not suitable” for the fiction slot in your magazine. However, I wish that you had given me some clue as to what particular features of the story made it unsuitable. Was it the passage about the ambidextrous dwarf and the vacuum cleaner? Was it the details of Samoyed birthing practices (which I can assure you are authentic — see, e.g., I.N. Snerdyalovskii, My Life as a Shaman)? Is zoophilia “out of bounds” for your magazine? Or did I just use too many adjectives? I should welcome any more detailed criticism, of a kind that might guide me towards a more successful submission in the future.

Yours faithfully, John Derbyshire


To the Editor
820 S. Michigan Ave., Chicago, IL

Dear Editor,

In a recent profile of US Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, you refer to the Justice as: “this wretched, tortured, scrofulous, alcoholic, self-hating, repulsive, twitching, child-abusing, snaggle-toothed, traitorous, satan-worshipping, cross-eyed psychopathic spawn of a three-legged hunchbacked leper.” Are you sure about “cross-eyed”? His eyes look okay to me. I am particularly sensitive on this point, being slightly cross-eyed myself. Can you confirm for me that Justice Thomas is, in fact, cross-eyed?

Your loyal reader, John Derbyshire


To the Editor
The New York Times
229 West 43rd Street, New York

Dear Editor,

In your very flattering obituary of the playwright Victor Klingenfarb (Aug. 8), you say that: “Klingenfarb’s progressive views brought him to the attention of the House Un-American Activities Committee.” Your obituarist goes on to blame the publicity following Mr. Klingenfarb’s appearance before HUAC for his failure to place movie scripts with any major movie studio, and for his subsequent lack of recognition as a screenwriter. However, your obituarist does not see fit to mention any of the following facts.

  • Mr. Klingenfarb was, by his own oft-repeated admission, a proud member of the Communist Party of the U.S.A. from 1937 until his death.
  • He was identified in the Venona transcripts as a paid employee of the NKVD/KGB throughout the 1940s and early 1950s, responsible for the deaths of “several” US agents and informers behind the Iron Curtain.
  • In 1949 Mr. Klingenfarb named his first child “Melsor,” in accordance with a not uncommon Soviet practice, explaining to a reporter from Variety that the name was an acronym for “Marx, Engels, Lenin, Stalin, October Revolution.”
  • On one of his many trips to the USSR during the 1970s, Mr. Klingenfarb was awarded the Order of Lenin, First Class, in a special ceremony presided over by Leonid Brezhnev.
  • On the last of his many trips to Cuba in 2001, Mr. Klingenfarb made a speech on Radio Havana praising the “indestructible” Fidel Castro and calling for the “annihilation” of the “corporatist-fascist Bush clique.”

I cannot imagine why your obituarist omitted these key facts about Mr. Klingenfarb’s life. Possibly they go some way to explaining why the American public failed to respond to his work.

Yours etc., John Derbyshire


To the Editor
The Nation
33 Irving Place, New York

Dear Editor,

Is Katrina vanden Heuvel, like, attached? Sure, I’m a conservative at present, but I’m an open-minded sort of guy, and very versatile. I could play for the other team. Yes, I’m married, too — but not, like, married. Is it all right to ask? I could send a photograph.

Your faithful subscriber, John Derbyshire

P.S. I know stuff about A** C**lt*r. I mean, stuff!


To the Editor
Weekly World News
5401 NW Broken Sound Blvd., Boca Raton, Fla.

Dear Editor,

In my opinion, your story about the hypothetical “affair” between Bat Boy and the Space Alien overstepped the bounds of propriety. Even if these two beings are indeed romantically attached, I see no need for the matter to be aired in public, thus further legitimizing the agenda of those who seek to overturn our traditional morality. You should also think of the distress these revelations must be causing to Mrs. Clinton. Heaven knows I am no homophobe, but it seems to me that this story, taken together with some others you have run recently — for example, the one headlined “Werepoodles: Gay Blades of the Night” in the previous issue — illustrates a regrettable tendency in the direction of your news coverage. I hope we shall soon see a return to the higher, more scrupulous standards of journalism for which your organ has long been esteemed by, amongst many, many others,

Your humble servant, John Derbyshire


To the Editor
National Review
215 Lexington Avenue, New York

Dear Editor,


Could you please publish more of John Derbyshire’s wonderful articles? All of us here in the offices of Barrington, Slocombe & Wise (“White-Shoe Corporate Legal Services for the Discerning Old-Money Plutocrat”) wait eagerly for Mr. Derbyshire’s articles in National Review, and there is a cloud of despondency over this office when he fails to appear in your pages. Mr. Derbyshire’s wit, learning, and insight are beacons of hope in a world that has lost its way.

Sincerely, Beauregard W. Slocombe III

(Republished from National Review by permission of author or representative)
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