I have been reading To the Letter: A Celebration of the Lost Art of Letter Writing by Simon Garfield (Gotham Books: New York, 2014) in preparation for this year’s Month of Letters (http://lettermo.com; http://www.penknife-editing.net/archives/1024), coming, as it does, in February. In the introductory chapter, “The Magic of Letters,” Garfield writes eloquently about what we are in danger of losing:
Letters have the power to grant us a larger life. They reveal motivation and deepen understanding. They are evidential. They change lives, and they rewire history. The world used to run upon their transmission — the lubricant of human interaction and the freefall of ideas, the silent conduit of the worthy and the incidental, the time we were coming for dinner, the account of our marvelous day, the weightiest joys and sorrows of love. It must have seemed impossible that their worth would ever be taken for granted or swept aside. A world without letters would surely be a world without oxygen (p. 19).
Letters have their own oxygen; they breathe something of the souls of their authors. They carry tone in the impression of their letters and need no emoticons to convey emotion.
Join me in writing letters this month. Leave some history behind. Remind someone she or he is important. Don’t forget Valentine’s Day. Send a lecture to your children. Thank someone for something. Tell your best friend about your day.
If you haven’t written a letter for a while, give it a try again. If you can’t think of anyone to whom to write, you can find a vibrant community of new acquaintance through the Month of Letters website. And if you do join in, drop me a line.