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A new kind of letter writing

standard August 31, 2009 6 responses

While I was in North Carolina I read a fabulous book. It was moving and funny and superbly written. It made me smile, and cry, and even better it really made me think.

First it made me think about book clubs and how they could be seriously improved.

Then it made me think about my own book and how I want it to move people the way the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society moved me.

Last it made me wonder what happened to good letter writing. It’s an epistolary novel. The story unfolds witty letter after witty letter. They’re well written, entertaining, really just delightful. I’m sorry, but there’s really no other word.

When I closed the book after finishing it I was sad that all the letters were done and I wouldn’t get to read another. Which led me to wonder about the demise of great letter writing.

I remember writing 16 page letters to my friends when I was a teen. I remember reading their 24 page replies. We went into excruciating details about our lives, our hopes, our fears… anything and everything that ever went on in our day to day lives. I loved imagining my friends reading my letters as I lay on my bed writing page after page.

Then the email was born and, even though we lived thousands of miles away from each other, in a few hastily typed paragraphs we could keep each other updated daily. But you know, I think that some of us had souls that craved those lengthier missives. The more poetic language reserved for letters. Even the lyrical qualities of epistolary stories.

We’re the ones who started blogs.

Instead of writing our tales and directing them to just one person, we write them to anyone who will read them. We weave our stories and we post them online instead of posting them in the mail. We might not start any blog posts with the word ‘Dear’ or finish with “love, me” but these are letters nonetheless. Letters about our lives, our hopes, our fears… about anything that crosses our minds that we need to share with someone we love and trust.

I still wish I had it in me to write lengthy letters to my close friends, but I get frustrated at the thought of having to write the same information over and over again. It just seems easier to write it all down in one place and to share it with anyone who might be interested in reading it. And don’t think that I don’t imagine you reading this as I write it. I might not have a clear idea of what your living room looks like or what computer you’re reading on, but I often didn’t know what my friend’s homes looked like after they moved away. And I might not know what you look like either, but in my heart I still know you. You’re my friend. And you’re reading my letters to you. Every day.

Thanks for reading.


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6 responses


    A couple of things. You are now the second person to highly recommend Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society. I shall read it next.

    I read The Venetian Affair recently which is a love story all told from love letter from 300 or 400 years ago. It can be a bit dull at certain points, but oh, the drama, love and lust shine through.

    I saw the movie Julie & Julia this past weekend too and whereas Julie communicates via blog with her family and her new and old friends, Julia has a dear pen pal (don’t want to provide any spoilers).

  • That is such a lovely post! I used to write letters to my great grandmother and after going there yesterday for my great grandpa’s 90th birthday party it has me thinking about those letters I no longer write to her. I think I will get back into letter writing at least to her because she has no access to internet and so she has no clue what’s going on in my life now.

    Kudos to you!

  • Hm…I left a comment this morning, but I did so at abuot 5, so maybe I didn’t click publish–though I often comment on your blog that early.

    I used to write so many letters, my friends said my dad should buy stock in Hallmark. I used to hate it when I’d run out of sheets of paper, but still have the matching envelopes.

    Can’t say my writing ever was or is poetic, but it was so prolific…missing my friends, missing writing, made me start a blog. I wrote for my friends, but more “strangers” read it. That wounded me at first, but now I find strength in it.

    Curious too, my post today is about thank you notes and how I enjoy them (crave them).

    Thanks for being out there, friend.

  • JarieMame

    Your blog rings so true. I still write, but its the seasonal greeting card to an elderly relative. I too remember those days of waiting for the mail in hopes of a letter from a friend miles away:) I even remember saving certain letters from a boy at camp I met;) Times have changed, blogs are our letters, I guess you gotta roll with it and enjoy what we have now:) But I still like to pull out the old shoebox of letters saved to relive the past…the good ol’ days!

  • as much as i’m loving immersing myself in all things bloggy, i’ve been nostalgic lately (too) for old-school letter writing.

    the hubs is deployed overseas and we can communicate easily, daily even, via text, skype, email, cellphone … but i didn’t want to lose this opportunity to also be writing good ol’ fashioned love letters!

  • I just finished Guernsey today. I, too am craving to get ink on my hands, lick an envelope, and choose the most colorful stamps. I’m cross posting this entry to my own blog. It made me happy and I want to share it. If you don’t approve, I’ll remove it.

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