My friend Ann recently sent me a letter, a bona-fide letter with a salutation, multiple paragraphs, and a closing. She sent me the letter as an attachment via email, but it was a letter all the same, and it piqued my interest because of the questions she posed and the ideas she pondered.
By day Ann is a librarian at an independent school in Connecticut. With her passionate joy of books and detective-like pursuit of finding information, wherever it may be hiding, she enlivens and enlightens both faculty, students and friends.
By night Ann is a graduate student pursuing a Master’s of Library Science (though in my humble opinion she could be teaching courses in that program). As part of the ED 450 class she “had to write a letter to someone discussing a philosophical issue from an article we had read. We get extra credit if we actually send it and get a response!” She further went on to say, in a second email, that “Our letters couldn’t be longer than 350 words, which is why it might sound choppy.”
There was no way I would pass up this request!
It turns out that this practice in correspondence was immensely satisfying to me. There is a wonderful site, Letters, Letter-writing and Other Intimate Discourse, which contains collections of letters by well-known authors and correspondents, a selection of quirky letters, and a section on the History & Culture of Letter Writing.
What Ann’s letter writing provided was a forum for distilling ideas in a format that seemed eminently more readable than a typical email, and this comes from me – someone who uses email as a primary means of communicating. Perhaps it’s not so unusual that I liked the letter writing, though, because as a youngster I enjoyed writing letters from camp and on travels, and as an adult I enjoy writing thank you notes that more resemble short letters.
I hope our letters send you off on your own pursuit of ideas; they will constitute my next two posts.