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Sunday, June 26, 2022

Haruki Murakami, OxyContin and Other Letters to the Editor

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To the Editor:

I really appreciated David Means’s review of Haruki Murakami’s new story collection, “First Person Singular” (April 25). Means is a good guide to discovering and appreciating Murakami’s oeuvre. And if you’ve never read any of it until now, this pithy collection is a good entry. But — you either get Haruki Murakami or you don’t. And if you don’t like this one, you won’t like anything else he wrote either.

Murakami is that rare, once-in-a-generation writer who manages to either completely engross you in his world, at least in his abstract and arcane (but quite openly modern) musings on it, or to completely turn you off from turning even another page in any of his books. To me, “First Person Singular” was an opportunity to immerse myself yet again into his deftly woven magic.

Of the stories in the book, “Confessions of a Shinagawa Monkey” (about carrying other people and the feelings they evoke within yourself) and the title story (about carrying around your personal hell, sometimes for the wrong reasons, sometimes innocently, but mostly not) are my favorites, and wonderful in reminding me why I like Murakami so much.

Paula Zevin
Somerset, N.J.

To the Editor:

In his review of Patrick Radden Keefe’s “Empire of Pain: The Secret History of the Sackler Dynasty” (April 25), John Carreyrou makes no mention of a major reason the Sacklers were so successful in selling OxyContin.

The Sacklers and their Purdue Pharma salespeople could perpetuate the myth that OxyContin was somehow less addicting and subject to abuse than other opioid analgesics because most physicians receive little training in pain management, including the proper use of opioids.

Carreyrou does mention the use of heroin by people who were no longer able to obtain OxyContin. However, it’s worth noting that almost all OxyContin pills distributed in this country were originally obtained through prescriptions from physicians.

Yes, the Sacklers bear a great deal of the responsibility for the opioid epidemic, but until we improve physician education on pain management, we are just setting ourselves up for someone else to seek to make a great deal of money by replicating their unethical behavior and unleash a whole new epidemic.

Steven A. King, M.D.
Philadelphia

To the Editor:

As the parent of an opiate addict whose entree to years of addiction was OxyContin, I thoroughly agree with Carreyrou’s assessment that Keefe’s book “will make your blood boil.”

I read Keefe’s extremely well-researched, well-written and impactful book as soon as I could to try to understand how one family could have had such a devastating impact on people and society. I came away realizing that Keefe could have easily also named this book “Say Nothing,” the title of his previous great work, since the Sacklers chose to deflect any and all accountability by saying nothing.

The real irony is that while amassing a fortune, the Sacklers ended up bankrupt by the estimation of the family patriarch, Isaac Sackler, who told his sons that their legacy would be how well they protected the family name.

Ross Gibson
Brattleboro, Vt.

To the Editor:

Carreyrou’s review fails to sufficiently criticize the medical and dental professions, many members of which aided and abetted the Sackler family by continuing to prescribe OxyContin with abandon for some time after its potency and addictive nature became known.

Even today, some doctors prescribe the drug when an efficacious and less addictive one would suffice, as evidenced by my wife, a registered nurse, who was offered a prescription for OxyContin following a dental procedure. She refused it. I wonder how many uninformed people might not.

Daniel Gelbert Flannery
St. Petersburg, Fla.

To the Editor:

All the pieces of artwork accompanying the articles in the Book Review are unfailingly praiseworthy, but I would like to send a specific shout-out to Jillian Tamaki for her outstanding weekly portraits in the By the Book column.

Her economic and precise use of line and shadow is flawless. The resemblance to the authors she’s portraying is perfect. Her work is consistently enjoyable and appealing. Truly one of my favorite parts of the Book Review.

Rochelle Clerkin
Hamilton, N.J.



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