Letters to the Editor – The New York Times

To the Editor:

My personal experience countermands John McWhorter’s contention, in his Aug. 2 review of Katherine D. Kinzler’s “How You Say It,” that “the way we talk is largely out of our control.” In order to fit in better and not stick out like a sore thumb, some immigrants reject their heritage to adopt the values and lifestyles of the dominant society. However, ideas of the superiority of Western culture can do lifelong harm and inculcate hatred of one’s origins.

As a heavily accented Chinese-Malaysian student at an Australian medical school, I once took it upon myself to adopt the plummy, sophisticated English accent I’d encountered in Merchant Ivory films. I had hoped this would help me fit in with my peers from elite private schools once I graduated into medical practice.

One day, a senior surgeon even mistook me for a graduate from the hallowed University of Cambridge. This surreal episode made me feel as if I had adopted a fabricated identity. But I have long since chosen to abandon this fake accent, resolving to be my own singular person.

Joseph Ting
Brisbane, Australia

To the Editor:

I was very impressed with your highly informative and quite thorough listing of Nordic noir books in the July 26 issue (“Northern Exposure”). However, I’d like to add a non-Scandinavian author: Torquil MacLeod is a Scot who lives in England, but his books feature a middle-aged female detective named Anita Sundstrom and are set in Malmo, Sweden. All of his books have M’s in the title — e.g., “Murder in Malmo,” “Menace in Malmo,” etc. — and while somewhat similar in style to Henning Mankell’s Wallander series they delve far more into the detective’s personal life and, in a very effective way, weave these elements into the mystery and criminal aspects of each of the books’ plots.

Richard Kurtz
East Hampton, N.Y.

To the Editor:

I was surprised that Marilyn Stasio and Tina Jordan declared that it was Peter Hoeg’s “Smilla’s Sense of Snow” that first sparked an American fascination with Scandinavian noir. It was not. The founding series that set everything in motion were the 10 books about Martin Beck by Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo that started the genre and are still the best of them all, especially as the series builds.

Michele Clark
Plainfield, Vt.

To the Editor:

In these times I am finding that I can bear to read only nonfiction or crime fiction, so I was very happy for all the author suggestions in the recent feature on Scandinavian noir. I was sorry, though, that the list could not expand enough to include two more fantastic Swedish writers: Leif GW Persson and Asa Larsson. Both offer unusual stories, featuring difficult and dry humor in Persson’s case (particularly his “Story of a Crime” trilogy) and alienation and grief in Larsson’s case. I still recall the deep feeling of readerly delight when I was beginning on Persson’s trilogy, and Larsson’s “The Black Path.”

Sarah Maxim
Berkeley, Calif.

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