News & Views » Going Postal

New view

It was with no small amount of trepidation that I began to read David Peisner's article on Vic Chesnutt and his return visit to Pike County (Vibes, "The phony earth below my feet," April 2). As a native of Pike (and a classmate of Vic's), I've become somewhat accustomed to seeing rural Georgia communities unfairly denigrated in various articles. Thankfully, Peisner manages to avoid that characterization, and presents a reasonably balanced view of the area. As for Vic's assertions that everyone was racist, that's more than a little over the top. While we certainly had our fair share of racists, it does a disservice to the good people who still live there to lump everyone in the same bucket.

-- Mark Reeves, Stone Mountain

She's baaaaack
Did Jane go on hiatus or leave for another position? Where the heck is my Jane? Help! She was always a lovely quirky read.

Insiders know that the Loaf makes the best lunch reading/impromptu cube-space tablecloth, and Jane is always the first to catch my ketchup. She's the best part of CL after the music calendar. She seemed so much like me! (Apologies, Jane!) That's the great part about the Grizzards and Janes that come along every once in a while. They have this magic power to make you think they would be so fascinating to meet for a drink, because you'd have so much to talk about. Oh well!

Jane, baby, I hope you are still out there somewhere. Did you get married or elope or something? Maternity leave? Alien abduction? Bermuda triangle? I imagine there was a big announcement that I missed, as usual. Please fill me in. Till then, I'll be fondly searching for word of her fate in News of the Weird.

-- Ted Freeman, Atlanta

Editor's note: The aliens have returned our Jane. Her column reappears in Bad Habits on p. 51.

An inspiration
Felicia Feaster: I just finished your recent article on the life and untimely death of artist Gretchen Hupfel ("Girl disconnected," April 2) and wanted to say thank you for an amazing piece. Your sensitive approach to the piece really shed a lot of light into a dark corner most of us would prefer to ignore ... mental illness.

Most of us show great compassion and understanding for those who are physically ill, but we are terrified of the mentally ill. Education and greater understanding is the key to changing this prejudice.

As an artist myself, I was also struck by how much Gretchen wanted to create art and share her vision. You painted an image of a courageous woman struggling with something so much bigger than herself, yet producing and creating great art at the same time. Gretchen's life is an inspiration, making me feel very lazy for not being more prolific and focused in my own work -- not to mention grateful for my own good mental and physical health.

Thanks to your editors as well for running the piece and giving so much space to Gretchen's story. Her story, thanks to you, will be with me for a long time to come.

-- Michael Jolly, Atlanta

Takes the cake
My disappointment continues with Creative Loafing. The writing that covers fine art in Atlanta consistently lacks sophistication. But last week's feature article about "the short, brilliant life of artist Gretchen Hupfel" ("Girl disconnected," April 2) really took the cake. It read like something out of Reader's Digest. Titles and subtitles were written like sensational soundbites from the 5 o'clock news. ("her life spiraled out of control" and the distasteful choice of "Girl Disconnected" -- referring to the Hollywood version of a very young writer's transitional experience in a mental institution).

Instead of focusing on Gretchen's tremendous artwork and its meaning to our culture, or taking the opportunity to wax profound on why we tend to mythologize young artists only after their suicide, the lead of the story flashed dramatic details of a fiery suicide, followed by tales of paranoia, an arrest, disclosure of large sums of money paid for treatment and details of personal relationships. This coverage chose a rather cliched attempt to analyze an event felt deeply by this community.

I know I am not alone in feeling this article was a disrespectful dramatization of Gretchen's life -- not her work.

-- Karen Tauches, Atlanta

Much-needed voice
Thank you for a fine, well-crafted, poignant portrait of a gifted woman facing a horrific illness ("Girl disconnected," April 2).

Mental illness is cruelly misunderstood. My hope is that in this fine article, you have created one pathway through which the Gretchens of the world can be better understood and more effectively treated. Yours is a much-needed voice in a world in which insurance companies blatantly neglect the needs of suffering people, and in which public funding for treating these illnesses is shrinking by the day.

-- Dr. Daphne Stevens, Macon

Got the message
Felicia Feaster: My twin sister, Becky, and I have both just finished your amazingly sensitive and accurate article about Gretchen ("Girl disconnected," April 2). It struck particularly close to home for us.

My twin, you see, suffers from symptoms very much like those of Gretchen, and I have been her roommate and caregiver for the past 14 years, since she became ill.

We were both full President's Scholars at Georgia Tech starting in 1985, and graduated side by side with physics degrees with highest honors in 1989. That was the year Becky had her first psychotic episode, and life has never been the same since.

The hardest part is that very few people understand or acknowledge what we've each been through in these 14 years of hell, so articles like yours are very special to us -- as if we were marooned on a deserted island and suddenly got a note in a bottle saying, "We know you are out there -- still looking. Keep your chins up."

Someday, I hope there will be housing and rehab programs for people like my sister, just like there are programs for people with every other kind of disability. Someday, I hope our legislators will realize that closing public mental health programs and reducing funding for Medicaid is putting more people like Gretchen and Becky into jail, instead of helping them get adequate treatment and learn how to manage their symptoms.

Someday, I hope the developmental disabilities community will stop asking our governor to divert critical funds out of mental illness treatment programs and into programs for the developmentally disabled.

-- Elizabeth Vinson de Goursac, Atlanta

Personal experience
Felicia Feaster: Thanks for your recent article about Gretchen Hupfel ("Girl disconnected," April 2). As a psychiatrist, I have also seen up close the devastation schizophrenia can have, and I have also been privileged to see the healing that also occurs when prompt diagnosis, education, support and proper therapy is employed.

I would object to your statement that "medication can dull the symptoms but cannot eradicate them." Just as there are different types of schizophrenia and different severity and courses of the illness, they are a variety of responses to pharmacotherapy. Some patients, in my experience, achieve complete remission of symptoms for long periods of time. From my experience, this has been since the development of the newer antipsychotic agents in the past 10 years or so. But you are right [that] for some people, a lessening of symptoms is the best outcome possible based on current treatments available. But I am hopeful that, as we get a better understanding of the biochemistry of the illness, even more effective and restorative treatments will be around in the future.

-- Steve Kissinger, Atlanta

War may be only answer sometimes
John Sugg: Whether war is the answer depends on your politics (Fishwrapper, "The flowering of fascism," April 2). Which of these wars do you think was not "the answer": American Revolution, WWI, WWII, American Civil War, Bosnia, Afghanistan?

My point is that war is an ugly reality that is sometimes the best and/or the only answer to some problems. War brought about the demise of slavery in the U.S.; defeatedHitler/Mussolini/ Hirohito fascism; defeated the repressive Taliban terrorist regime. Do you really believe these evil institutions would have quietly gone to the dustbin by just sitting down and getting to know each other better? The incongruent logic of the mantra "War is not the answer" is lost on most Americans. It just is not historically true.

-- Stephen Fitch, Salem, Ore.

Greedy scalawag
Thank you so much for making Leo Mullin Scalawag of the week (News & Views, April 2). Delta was a company who cared about their employees and, in return, the employees cared so much about the company. Employees of Delta always went the extra mile to be sure the company was the best in the industry. Being a part of the Delta family for most of my adult life, it really is sad to see what this man has done to this company in the name of GREED.

Thank you for making this man your SCALAWAG of the week! We do not need this type of leadership in our country.

-- Diane Goodhart, Atlanta

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