When I said I was going to have a blog, my son Tom said, “That’s sooo 2002.” Today, I’ve been deluged with advice about blogging. One of our wonderful advisors, Mark Danderson, told me I needed to change the security settings, so it would be easy (instead of difficult) for people to comment. We’ve changed them, so please do comment–I feel like I really have to write something controversial, though, to trigger that comment reflex.
Whereas Rachel, age 16 and a webmaster, tells me I shouldn’t worry about writing something profound. “Just write,” she said, “about the way you scan your emails and don’t know what I told you.”
That’s quite true, and I’m sure it’s true for most people. We do have a few deeper relationships, where we absorb all the detail and nuance, but most of the time we are reading (and writing) in all too great haste. I wish I could change this, but it’s not likely to happen in the near future. I’m puzzled by Rachel’s complaint, though, given that she watches TV, IMs with a couple friends, and redesigns her website all at the same time. Is she really able to absorb things better than?
Myself, I long for letters. I adore (adored, perhaps) letters, and through an odd twist of fate was able to touch and organize some of the most famous literary letters of the 20th century. But that wasn’t where it started. When I was at UCSB, my advisor, the critic Marvin Mudrick, suggested I teach a class on letters. I don’t remember at all how this came about, how he knew that this was the right topic for me, but I did teach the course, and only a few years later in London got a job working on the T. S. Eliot letters. I spent many happy hours sitting on the floor in the Eliots’ Kensington apartment (he was long dead, but very much a presence still) sorting through letters from Ezra Pound, Scofield Thayer, James Joyce, and Virginia Woolf.
Emails aren’t the same, but they can be artful, too, and tender and enlightening. If only they could be held to one’s heart, as an old-fashioned paper letter could be.