IT WAS nice of Elaine Showalter ("I am duvet woman", 25 January) to explain that in being sceptical towards the book Knowing ME she is not disparaging women suffering from ME - although the rest of her article does precisely that.

As she goes on to call ME a psychosomatic epidemic amongst women, would she mind telling me, and the other male sufferers from ME, what she thinks is wrong with us? Or does our very existence, even as a minority, prove embarrassing for her thesis? But then a "cultural historian" who can, in her latest book, explain the experience of Gulf War veterans (from the documented use of vaccination cocktails and a variety of unpleasant chemicals) as being of the same order and cause as the claims of UFO "abductees" is clearly beyond embarrassment.

Ms Showalter is entitled to her prejudices and her sloppy thinking, but those of us who (unlike her) have to live with this condition are fed up with being exploited as part of some all- encompassing theory of pre-millenial hysteria. If she were more interested in real history than modish theorising, she might discover that before doctors had a greater understanding of multiple sclerosis, it was referred to as "hysterical paralysis". For someone supposedly commenting on the modern condition, Ms Showalter's views are strangely out-of-date.

Ian Purser

London E11