Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Odds and ends

I walked into my neighborhood Borders yesterday and, lo and behold, there was The Naked Earl! It's not supposed to be released until April 3--and it wasn't at Barnes and Noble--so it was a bit of a shock. But it was definitely at Borders, sitting very purple and regal amongst all the other romances on a table and then again upstairs in the romance section. So if you are on the lookout for it, you may spot it. Let me know, will you?

I've been taking some time before I start writing my next book to dig through my office, trying to sort and tidy. Since I'm unearthing papers with a 2001 date on them, I guess it's been a while since I've done this exercise. Certainly the dust bunnies--actually giant dust rabbits--strongly indicate that I've not cleaned recently. It's been a somewhat fun stroll down memory lane, though--I came upon the emails I wrote to my Golden Heart 2004 loop when I got The Call and sold my first book.

I also found some letters my grandfather wrote to my grandmother in the early 1900s. (No, it hasn't been THAT long since I've cleaned--my cousin sent them to me...a while ago.) I read through one or two, though I felt a little like I was snooping. (Memo to self--destroy those letters my husband sent me back in the day.) And the diction back then was certainly different. Who writes letters anymore? I use the keyboard so much, I find I have a hard time getting my hand to move in a cursive manner. And then my brain gets ahead of my hand and I make mistakes which I can't just delete with the push of a button.

So here are my questions for you all in blogland--Is reading someone's private letters "snooping" even though the writer's been dead for years? I never met my grandfather, and I find the glimpse into the past fascinating, but still...the letter was obviously not intended for me. (Though I assure you, these missives weren't "hot" at all.) Certainly historians learn a lot about the past through letters--but would the letter writer want people pawing through his or her private correspondence? And do you still write letters? Do you save letters if you get them? Or has email replaced letter writing completely? And if it has, has something important been lost? Do we write and think differently when we write a letter versus an email?


Caroline Linden said...

Martha Washington burned all the letters she and George wrote each other, right before she died. John and Abigal Adams wrote (and wrote and wrote and wrote) to each other, and I think historians ever since have been glad they did. I kinda think, in the case of the Adamses, they wouldn't mind people learning from their letters. They discussed lots of things, not just personal things. Why else do/did people save their personal papers?

My grandmother used to write to me, and I did save some of them, but those were letters to a child. If someone were to mail me the letters she and granddad wrote to each other while he was a medic in Italy during WWII, though, and she was riding the train for a week to be able to see him for two days when he was back in the States on leave, you better believe I'd read them.

Kristina Cook said...

I do think email has replaced letter, and I also think we as a society have lost something significant. A lot of history has been 'written' through private correspondence, and the newest generation will not be leaving such a record, which I find very, very sad.

The Cosmic Kid said...

Letters and personal correspondence have revealed a lot of things about history that we never knew or that never got passed through the history books/oral history the first time around. So, I say it's not snooping, but because it's a relative it makes the degrees of separation very close and makes us think it's awkward. Maybe it is, but I think you might learn a lot more about the time and the people than you would without it.

I still write cards and the occasional letter, but if I need to send a quick note, I'll send an email. Now that I take notes on my computer, I hardly ever have paper around anyway...

Lois said...

Nah, it's not snooping if they've been gone a while. :)

But I definitely think email has replaced a lot of things, not just letters. Email for the most part you can tell is conversation like - people type as they would be if the other person was in the room with them. Which still, after all these years does bug me a bit because I still have it in my head that letters are supposed to be typed a certain way and formatted a certain way and all that stuff. (Sophomore year was typing class year LOL) But even I take the quick way out plenty of times when I'm lazy or in a hurry, but I do notice I tend to sort of stick with conventions.

But the few times in the past couple years I've written letters, I've noticed I've shoved in :), right side up however. LOL :) I have gotten used to those short cuts. Also too, once upon a time letters were a bigger deal because a pen pal was something unusual. Nowadays, it's hardly a big deal to see people writing to you from other countries.

There are pros and cons with everything. Email's great, but we sure lost something with it, I think. :)


Sally MacKenzie said...

I think you're right, cosmic kid, it's the degree of separation thing. And also that the letters I saw were sort of love letters. My grandmother was still my grandfather's fiancee. My cousin also sent letters my father had written her sister when he was a kid at camp. I haven't read those yet either, but they seem less intrusive--even though my dad is still alive.

When my mom died and I was cleaning out her drawers for my dad, I came across cards with little letters he'd written her. That seemd too private to read.

My husband's parents saved all the letters he wrote them from college. (!! I have college kids--they don't even write me an email, let alone a letter.) I haven't read those, either, but he has--he says they are deadly dull. I did go through letters my best friend sent me when we were both in college--it was special reliving that time--who I was and who she was. I sent them back to her after I'd read them.

Yes, I agree, we've lost a lot without letters--and in the old, old days, that was the only way of communicating--there were no telephones. Now the kids all have cell phones, so they have instant communication. And many don't even do emails--they IM.

Do you suppose future historians will be digging all those old PCs out of the land fills and seeing if they can capture stuff on their hard drives?

Ann Christopher said...

Hi, Sally--

Congrats on the book! I'll have to look for it now that I know it's out!

Letters--try to write them sometimes, usually thank-yous. I actually went so far as to buy this really pretty, heavy cardstock--I figure it makes people feel special to get an actual letter now and then.

And if you don't feel comfortable reading the letters, Sally, you can donate them to some local historical society. They'd be happy to have them, I'll bet.