In response to:
Strictly from Hunger from the April 30, 1981 issue
To the Editors:
John Richardson commits a minor howler in his ill-tempered review of Judy Chicago’s The Dinner Party:
Paul Gallico’s hyperboreal muse
Inspired his novel, The Snow Goose,
Whereas inventor Howard Hughes
Chopped wood to build the Goose of Spruce.
Robert and Rebecca Tracy
John Richardson replies:
Ms. McNaughton’s letter is interesting for the light it casts on a puzzling aspect of Chicago’s Dinner Party: why so many of the 999 “women of achievement” commemorated on “The Heritage Floor” are not great achievers at all but deities, myths, fictions—figures of irredeemable obscurity. For instance, “Anu (a fairy)” is memorialized, not Akhmatova, sundry snake goddesses, not Mrs. Beeton. Now, thanks to Ms. McNaughton, things are clearer. Chicago’s perversely arcane pantheon serves a political purpose. The exclusion of so many real people, especially if they bear household names, and the inclusion of so many ghosts from legend or the dark ages is apparently a ploy to generate public guilt and drum up sympathy for the forgotten women of history. Since The Dinner Party is agitprop not art and “The Heritage Floor” a manifestation of “her-story” not history, allowance might at a pinch be made for these attempts to adjust the record. But Ms. McNaughton goes too far when she calls on me to “make amends” for pointing out that The Dinner Party does not make good on its claims to be a work of art of historical significance.
Several correspondents both pro and con have insisted that The Dinner Party is exactly the kind of monument that feminism deserves. I have too much respect for the serious aspirations of the women’s movement to subscribe to this gloomy view.
Sorry about the Sibyl and the Spruce Goose.
July 16, 1981