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letters {9/22/12}

Kelley Clink

The other day I came across this website, and I instantly fell in love. Like most writers, I am intrigued by other people's private lives. (We can't help it--it's an occupational hazard.) And for centuries the best way to get into the brains of very smart, very interesting people was through their diaries. The second best way was through their letters. 

I actually prefer reading the letters of authors (or other people of note) to reading diaries. Letters, after all, are meant to be read. They are written as a two-way conversation. They are intimate enough to engage, but not so intimate as to overwhelm. They show you something important about a person that a diary can't: they show you how the author interacts with other people. 

Reading this letter from F. Scott Fitzgerald to his daughter Scottie, I was struck by the fact that the letter as window-to-the-soul no longer exists. My favorite contemporary authors will not have email collections published after their deaths. And who would want them to? Emails pale in comparison to letters. Ninety-nine out of a hundred emails require little to no thought, and reveal almost nothing about our innermost thoughts, fears, and desires. 

Does the transitory nature of modern communication help or hinder us? Will the people of future generations wonder who we were and how we interacted with each other, or have we reached an evolutionary point where backward gazes taper to glances?

I guess time will tell. 

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