I have just finished reading the Appalachia Issue of
, and I found it most interesting. Having worked in West Virginia (the only state wholly in Appalachia) for 25 years, I read everything I can get my hands on about the area.
Your before-and-after pictures of mountaintop removal were searing. We will keep them to use with groups of student volunteers who come to the area. It isn’t easy, without a plane, to get a real idea of the devastation caused by MTR—even aside from things like the sludge flood.
I liked the first-person articles about Homer Thompson (I know a lot of men with stories like his) and Roger Maynard and the women, whose names I forget.
I found the parts about Father Beiting, who is incidentally my pastor, quite good. He isn’t totally a Sisyphus. Some of the smaller stones have stayed up there. But you are right: He keeps on trying to move the mass of poverty here. As Camus says though, Sisyphus was a happy man. Father B. is doing what he believes God has called him to do. He isn’t defeating poverty in Appalachia, but he is throwing one starfish back in the ocean at a time, and it makes a difference to that one. Sometimes, when he can get some jobs going, he throws a whole bucket in at once.
I could have done without that awful Sacred Heart statue. If you had come across
bridge (between Warfield and Kermit), I could have shown you a better SH statue, in front of a Free Will Baptist church, with the too-Catholic heart chiseled neatly out. Amazingly, a number of the little roadside cemeteries have statues of Mary. Maybe she is just a mother figure to some.
I really enjoyed the magazine, though I could wish that you had given some time to those who have made it up into the middle class. There are a number—I employ five. You focused almost entirely on the super-poor and then talked with judges and bankers, who don’t generally like that picture of Appalachia. I suspect there are some pathetically poor street people, etc. in NY and those who won’t even look at them as they pass them by and who wish they would disappear.
Instead of that wild party in Ft. Gay, with its drunks dancing on tables and its exhibitionist earning a few dollars by exhibiting for the New Yorkers, you might just as accurately have visited some of the revivals or church meetings that play a prominent part down here in Baptist/fundamentalist country. They are interesting gatherings. But then, that would hardly have fit under your magazine title. Many down here see one beer bottle as sinful. We minority Catholics fall somewhere between the two groups, holding, as we do, that nothing God created is sinful—only its misuse.
Finally, that word “fuck.” It used to have a real meaning, representing a biological act. Now it’s just a totally common overused adjective (or adverb or noun—or expletive?) and it reflects a deprived vocabulary. I used to tell my students who were reading
Catcher in the Rye
that if they found themselves talking like Holden when they finished, they weren’t really mature enough to read the book. There are better words—more meaningful words—for at least 95 percent of your “fucks.”
Best wishes to all at
. How did a generally good magazine like yours get such a name? Does it mislead many of your readers (who expect something far raunchier)? Or put off others, who would really find most of your content quite good?
SISTER M. BRENDAN CONLON, DIRECTOR,
CHRISTIAN HELP, INC.
We wish we could have found you when we were down there, Sister Conlon. You’ve opened up a whole new magazine’s-worth of questions and issues in your letter. Suffice it to say that we could always have found more things to report on in Appalachia, because it’s an endlessly fascinating place.
As for the plethora of “fucks” in the issue, we’ll say 20 Hail Marys and 20 Our Fathers. Cool?
Let me start off by saying how much I love and enjoy
magazine! I find myself anticipating the arrival of the magazine every month in the mail. My eagerness is comparable to an ugly woman’s eagerness to get laid and/or lose her virginity!
Back to a more serious note, the reason for this letter runs deeper than expressing my admiration to you. Last year, I was diagnosed with cancer (specifically synovial sarcoma) just a few months after my 25th birthday. I wasn’t devastated but found myself more motivated to be optimistic and determined to “fight the battle.” Despite the hardships of going through chemo (i.e., losing all my hair and becoming an antisocial hermit because I could die from catching a cold from someone) and radiation treatments, I’m proud to say that life hasn’t been too bad. Just before Christmas, I underwent eight hours in the operating room to remove the tumor. I must say that having a big-ass scar almost the whole length of my left leg beats not having a leg at all. Now, I’ll have the option of telling people I am a survivor of cancer or a freak shark-attack victim.
for accompanying me on this journey. The witty and interesting articles made time breeze by at lightning speed at the hospital and at home while nauseated from chemo and being bedridden for two weeks after the surgery. Perhaps you can dedicate an issue to cancer because it can happen to anyone at any age. It’s an issue that’s sensitive but also very important to address. I will be forever loyal to your publication.
here isn’t really much that we feel qualified or entitled to say in response to this besides that it makes us happy, and “congratulations” and “thanks.”
OUT OF OUR LEAGUE
I am a fat, lonely loser with no friends. I need some advice on how to meet people who share my tastes. As a person who suffers from bipolar disorder, I crave the extremities of life. I am ruining my body with alcohol and drugs, just so that I can feel some semblance of acceptance and love. I really appreciate the magazine and take all of your endorsements and advice to heart. I wish that I could be one-tenth as great as the people you interview. I feel that my life has completely stopped at the age of 23 and feel very little reason to go on. I want to live life to its fullest but feel too repressed and reserved to live out my fantasies. What can I do to live some sort of a meaningful existence? I do not want to be famous or popular, I just want to have as much fun as I possibly can. If you could please dispense any advice that I could possibly use to turn my life around, I would deeply appreciate it.
As a side note, I recently experienced a major psychotic breakdown, which prevented me from leaving my apartment for months. The only event that I attended during the aforementioned period was the Vice Intonation Festival because I trusted the magazine and anyone who appreciates the magazine to a great extent. I have started attending bars and shows again but often find myself sitting alone in a drunken delirium, too afraid to approach people. I love art, music, fun, etc. more than I can express and want to find others who share in these interests.
Andrew, we’re really glad that you had fun at the Intonation Fest. But, um… We don’t know what to tell you about the whole bipolar/psychotic episode thing. Our advice would be: Go to a really good shrink, really fast. Or just do like the more mentally ill of us here did and self-medicate with whiskey and heroin until you can’t take it anymore, THEN go to a really good shrink (if you don’t die first, which you have a strong chance of doing). So just go to the shrink.
CHANGE OF HEART
I get jokes. I can laugh at myself. I loved your Girls Issue, spunky yet informed. I smiled and laughed and nodded appreciatively, but all of that stopped when I reached “Johnny Ryan’s Page.” What a disservice to your fine publication... So unfunny, and not just because it wasn’t actually funny (lesbian breast cancer? what does that even mean?), but because it was offensive—I’d go so far as to say misogynistic, and that’s not a word I take lightly. Shame on its author and shame on the editor who included it.
Johnny Ryan replies:
When I wrote these jokes I was going through a really terrible divorce with my second wife. She took everything. I was dead broke. She turned my children and friends against me and I became a huge drug addict. It was during this time that Vice contacted me about doing this comic page about girls. They took advantage of me when I wasn’t in my right mind. You’ll be happy to know that since then I’ve gone to counseling and things are looking better. I’ve completely quit drawing stupid, mean-spirited comics and have started a new life coaching volleyball for Katrina orphans in New Orleans. I’m taking it one day at a time, trying to turn myself into a better person.
FORGETTING THE NATIVES
A couple of things about the Girls Issue: It’s weird to me that the whole boob job discussion was based totally on what a guy would think of plastic surgery. If the guy you’re with doesn’t like your boobs the way they are, that’s too bad for him, right? If you were getting your boobs fixed it would be so that you thought they were the finest titties on earth. I think that’s the only reason to get your boobs done or not done, as the case may be. And I hate to be the one to say it, because I wish that lady who told you all the expensive cosmetics were shit was right, but that Crème de la Mer face cream is life changing—stupid and sad but true.
One other thing I was wondering about... How come you guys went all over the world to check out insane social/political situations for the
Vice Guide to Travel
when all you had to do was drive to the Black Hills, for instance, and tell the story of any one of the nations who fought there? Who are still fighting there and on every reserve across North America. If you read
Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee
you’ll wish a million dirty bombs dropped all over North America.
People need to know about it. I’d love it if you’d tell them.
Clean the crust out of your eyes and look at the back issues on viceland.com. We went and lived on a Blackfeet reservation in Montana and did a whole issue with them.
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