The Appalachian Trail, the Boycott of the 1980 Summer Olympics and Other Letters to the Editor

For the publisher:

I send my thanks to Jonathan Miles for his review of the biography of Philip D’Anieri on the Appalachian Trail (July 25). It’s a challenge to keep your balance on a narrow path while looking at the people who created the path, left and right towards the world just beyond the protected forests, and past the spirit of adventure that makes you walk over and over again.

I am happy to add “slackpacker” to my vocabulary. While hiking the AT 50 years ago in North Carolina a friend and I met a guy at a shelter who had just hiked the trail for a week’s hike with nothing but a heavy iron pan and a big packet of pork chops from the supermarket. I now know that “slackpacker” means more than that.

After a sprain we had to leave the trailhead at the first road we encountered which turned out to be a gravel road leading to a remote village. “Hi, hippie,” said the first young man we met, suggesting that my bearded long haired friend was the first such person he had ever seen. We expected hostility, but instead found sympathy and help. I’m glad the people who live near the TA get their due in Miles’ review.

Bruce r smith
Santa Fé, New Mexico

For the publisher:

I was happy to read that the 100 year old Appalachian Trail was getting attention. And I hope that a more comprehensive report will have the same number of words in the future.

I too have read D’Anieri’s book on TA and while the biography approach is unique and essentially well documented, I was disappointed with the overall message. Missing from the review and book are the outstanding contributions of thousands of dedicated volunteers who help build, maintain, protect and monitor the Appalachian Trail Corridor for us. This unique 2,000 mile trail is run primarily by volunteers.

There are several well-documented stories of the trail that reflect the body and soul of TA.

Robert S. Bristow
Westfield, Mass.

For the publisher:

When Eddie Glaude Jr. admits he’s “not good at reading poetry” in his By the Book interview (July 25), I think of all the college kids who took my “Introduction to Poetry” class for almost 40 years at school. Visual Arts. Many of my students weren’t very good at reading poetry either, but Glaude at least keeps trying to read poems (blessings be upon him) even though he keeps “missing something”.

I guess there is something in every good poem that we miss, so we keep coming back to it. I wonder, however, how many of my former students continue to read poetry or recite the poems I asked them to memorize.

Poetry seems to be the Devil’s Island of Literature. Some people view poetry reading as a form of punishment – exiled from the prose world for meaning, hard work instead of the sheer pleasure of making delicious discoveries and reveling in the language’s immense resources. For others, poems are mistakenly viewed as another form of code writing, alliance cryptography.

Don’t give up, Glaude. Please don’t give up.

Louis phillips
new York

For the publisher:

Any re-examination of Jimmy Carter’s presidency (like that of Kai Bird’s biography, “The Outlier,” July 11) must include his controversial boycott of the 1980 Moscow Olympics. As a member of this team, I was part of a small minority of athletes who supported him – although I disagreed with him.

As a major in Russian studies at Yale, I knew many of the Russian team, and from my perspective it seemed more impactful to me to support our president than to challenge him.

In 2000, still on fire, I wrote a letter to Carter telling him that although I had supported him at the time, I also thought he had made a bad decision: the Olympics have historically served as a peaceful bridge. between the peoples of the world, and should not be politicized.

To my amazement, I received in return a handwritten note from the President not five days later that said, “It may well be that the US Congress, the Olympic Committee, 50 other nations and I were wrong. My heart went out to you and the other athletes. Best wishes, Jimmy Carter. Did we still have presidents with this deeply thoughtful and ethical view of the world.

Anne Taubes Warner
Lincoln, Mass.

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