Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Let There Be Letters

As the world of communication goes more and more into the ether, I'm very concerned about letters, physical letters written by one person to another. Volumes of letters have been a big literary genre all of my 38 bookselling years and for eons before. What will become of them? How will we know people and events in the unique ways available through letters written on paper and saved. Somehow collected emails don't have the same heft and depth. Maybe that will be okay with everyone going forward. Not me, though. It's not going to be okay with me.

I'm reminded of this concern since we just got in a new book of Saul Bellow's letters, entitled (wait for it) "Saul Bellow : Letters". He has actually been a customer of ours! This is a wonderful, enlightening volume. I love learning the thoughts, history, process and personal writing style of beloved authors this way.

Herewith part of a favorite poem of my husband's. It's from A.A. Milne's "Now We Are Six", a lovely little volume if you don't know it. From "The Knight Whose Armour Didn't Squeak":

"Of all the Knights in Appledore
The wisest was Sir Thomas Tom
He multiplied as far as four,
And knew what nine was taken from
To make eleven. He could write
A letter to another Knight."

Good job, Sir Tom!!


Things said...

I write letters to friends all over the country, simply because it's a very different type of communication - much more intimate and thoughtful than a phone or gchat conversation. There are many reasons letter writing could die, but the only way we can really fight it is to keep it alive in our own lives and practice. I do fear the end of collections of letters, though. They are one of my favorite guilty pleasures.

Anonymous said...

And when your husband met my son at the Christmas party last year, he quoted the poem for us. A very lovely poem it is.


Katie said...

Just read this on lifehacker.com and couldn't help but think of this post. Quoth the author, "Sure paper is perishable. But it is predictably perishable. Data turns to noise in all kinds of unpredictable ways. Like hard drive crashes. And if an IT person tells you that there is a way to archive a digital file, not touch it for 500 years, and guarantee that it will remain usable—that person is lying to you. If you think I'm wrong, I'll email you some WordStar and AppleWorks documents just as soon as I can figure out how to get them off my five and a quarter inch floppies."