Letter from Patricia Patterson to John Powers

I’ve just discovered that the comment concluding my Afterword to my article about Manny Farber on this site was grievously mistaken and misinformed. So I’ve just added this letter from Patricia—written in response to a John Powers broadcast about Manny on NPR’s Fresh Air—to my Afterword as a postscript, but I also would like to highlight it here.—J.R. [8/28/08]

Dear John Powers,

Manny was not a “Conservative,” a “Libertarian,” a “Republican,” an anything. In his early twenties he tried to join the Communist Party but they didn’t want him. During WWII he tried to enlist in the army but they rejected him. After inviting him to join, it took just one meeting for the New York Film Critics Circle to ask him to leave. He came home that night saying, “They fired me.” He also told me that even a therapist in Washington had “fired him” for not working hard enough. Manny was not a Republican because he never knew any. He didn’t quarrel with them because he was never around them. He quarreled with the people he knew: artists, writers, teachers, carpenters. When he saw smugness, complacency, and superiority — and often those qualities went together — then he would get going, and separate himself from them. He did not vote for Bush twice. I know, because for ten years I was the family driver, and he didn’t want to go to the polls. (His license had been taken away for reckless driving.) I don’t know about Bush once because I was in another booth. But I do know how much he revered FDR, that he voted for Jimmy Carter, for Bill Clinton twice, even had a Jesse Jackson moment, and loved Mario Cuomo and Barack Obama. Obama thrilled him and he fretted about his winning. He and I both voted for Obama in the Democratic primaries. This I know because he was by then very ill and unsteady on his feet and he needed to fill in the form three times before getting it right. A bushy-bearded guy (our polling place is in a neighbor’s garage down a dirt road) allowed it and asked afterwards, “Seen anything good lately, Manny?” So three times in public view he voted for Obama and I could get the polling guys to testify to that. Manny thought Barack was a new Lincoln — one of the great ones.

Manny was a believer in America. His parents escaped from Russia and raised him and his two brothers in a small house on the Mexican border. That’s another story.

I loved him very much

Patricia Patterson, his wife

P.S.: Other than the political misinformation, I thought your piece was lovely and accurate. Would you please post this letter under your article, on the Fresh Air site.

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