To the Editor:

I greatly enjoyed Claire Luchette’s essay “A Superfluity of Nuns” (Sept. 19), and would like to put in a good word for my favorite novel about the profession (or calling): Muriel Spark’s “The Abbess of Crewe.”

Published in 1974, it’s a devastatingly clever story of a scandal among an order of British nuns whose leadership closely resembles that of high U.S. officials caught up in Watergate. Unlike the serious works of literature about the sisters of the cloth mentioned in Luchette’s essay, it’s laugh-out-loud hilarious.

Richard Grayson
Philipsburg, St. Maarten

To the Editor:

In his ambitious review of two books on time and motion (Sept. 12), Simon Winchester mentions how General Motors “insidiously” put millions both on the road and in “near-permanent indebtedness.”

It’s worth noting that was not the most egregious plan of the company that built the ominously dramatic “Futurama” at the 1939 World’s Fair. In 1949, G.M., along with Firestone Tires and Standard Oil among others, was convicted in the “Great American Streetcar Scandal” of conspiring to monopolize the sale of supplies in the auto industry, which would have eliminated mass transit and ensured decades of dependence on cars.

How ironic also, the streetcars, cable cars and other light rail that they successfully put out of business were electric modes of transport.

Lisa Seidenberg
Westport, Conn.

To the Editor:

Readers of Colm Toibin’s superb novel “The Magician,” about Thomas Mann, will be surprised to read in Christopher Beha’s review of Mann’s “Reflections of a Nonpolitical Man” (Sept. 19), on the same page as Jay Parini’s review of “The Magician,” that Mann was bisexual. Toibin thoroughly documents Mann’s homosexuality. Parini cites a passage in which Toibin reveals that Mann was attracted to his wife when he imagined her as a boy. This is not bisexuality.

A strength of Toibin’s work is his portrait of Katia Mann, a most engaging, intelligent, loyal wife, interesting in her own right.

Peg Cruikshank
Corea, Maine

To the Editor:

Christopher Beha’s review shed an illuminating light on Mann’s nonfiction writings and the evolution of his political and artistic views over time. I disagree, however, with the opening statement that after the publication of “Buddenbrooks” in 1901, Mann did not complete “another great work” until the 1912 “Death in Venice.”

In 1903, Mann published the novella “Tonio Kröger.” “Tonio Kröger” is one of Mann’s most autobiographical works, and it contains valuable insights into the young author’s burgeoning thoughts about art and society. As such, it dovetails nicely with the nonfiction writings described by Beha. It is also widely regarded as one of Mann’s most important works.

Robert Farrell
Waltham, Mass.

To the Editor:

In her By the Book interview (Sept. 12), Gabrielle Union says she disliked most of the books she was assigned to read in school, and had she not been compelled to do assignments on them she wouldn’t have read past the first chapters.

I suspect the “required” part was likely a major factor in her distaste. In this, she would be a member of a large club. Imagine being served a hot fudge sundae as a child, but told that once you have consumed it you would be obligated to write a theme paper on the ice cream industry, with sidebar essays on the geographical origin of the nuts, chocolate and cherry toppings. Would you enjoy that sundae?

If I were a grade school teacher, I would not assign specific books. One period a day would be reserved for reading and all would need to comply (no looking at phones), but each child would have unrestricted choice on the reading material. Books from the library, comic books or monster magazines from home, Harry Potter, Captain Underpants, Judy Blume, whatever appeals to each child. No tests, no essays, no oral reports and absolutely no peer disparagement of reading choice tolerated.

This, I think, would plant the seeds for a lifelong passion for reading far more effectively than compulsory readings of even the greatest literature.

David English
Acton, Mass.

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