Monday, October 01, 2007

A Life in Letters

Remember the days before email? When people actually wrote their news and thoughts in longhand or on a typewriter, licked stamps, and carried their letters in person to the mailbox - to be picked up and handled by several others before finally arriving at their destination?

The whole idea of letter-writing seems almost quaint now, something from a bygone era. And yet there is something so personal, so original about letters, which email can never really duplicate. All emails look basically the same, and arrive in the same format - in a computer font, on a computer screen. In contrast, each letter has its own size and shape and bulk (depending on the prolificity of the letter-writer), its own idiosyncratic scrawl, its own life, just as any object that has been touched by human hands has life. An email cannot be touched by human hands, unless it's printed out, which is after the fact, or unless you are inside of a computer (which I really hope, for your sake, you are not).

I'm sure there have been many, many articles and essays written about this whole subject, so I will restrain myself from pontificating any further. But I did just want to say this - I love old letters. I don't know what I'm going to do with all the ones I have (about 4 shoeboxes' worth) but until I figure it out, I'm going to keep them.


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