Sunday, January 6, 2013

Letters

I've mentioned it before, but I'm still concerned about letter writing.

It seems worthless or pointless or both to voice a concern about something that is inevitable, and already done.  Worrying about the internet's erosion of communication styles is not unlike now-amusing comments of concern and distaste made by people who just couldn't get on board with the electric light.  But what if it's emitting something?  And it makes the furniture look so ugly! 

No one writes letters but the very old and the very twee.  What will happen with emails?  Will there ever be publications of collected emails by cherished writers?

Emailing is so informal.  Sometimes that's a good thing, but upon reading a structured letter, I feel that I am missing out on writing them.  I have exchanged thousands and THOUSANDS of emails with my best friend over the last however many years, and while we both occasionally make the effort to write well or at least memorably, I am physically perceiving the missed potential.  Although you almost can't fail at letter writing, no matter who you are.  From Truman Capote writing to his society bitches from Capri to my grandma's older brother writing from a French battlefield in WWII, the little dispatches seem to be the perfect vehicle for being clever.  After a paragraph of complaints about his living conditions, the brother said, "Ah, c'est la krieg."  I thought it was the wittiest thing I had ever seen. 

Anyway, this latest twinge of concern was inspired by my amusement at the conclusion of a letter from Groucho Marx to Dick Cavett:

Well, Richard (I’d say “Dick” but my secretary is a spinster), I’m running out of things to say. And they should be running out of me. Anyway, good-bye ’til hell freezes over. And if you’ve read this far, there’s something wrong with you.
Groucho


Perhaps the real problem here is not so much that we are not writing on paper, but rather who is doing the writing.  Groucho is dead and I can hardly bear to say it, but Dick is getting old.  The best, most interesting and amusing people are made of diverse interests and varied knowledge.  Renaissance people, if you wanted to use a tired phrase.

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