Tuesday, March 17, 2009


I want to start a club of letter-writers! We will bring back the beautiful art of letter-writing in the age of the txt, when there's not even enough time for vowels, let alone poetical flourishes... We will sit at desks with red wine in front of us and write long, detailed, thoughtful letters to one another. These days the only exciting things that come by post are story acceptances. The rest is administrative drivel, never touched by human hand save in the very last moment when the postie lifts it from the bag and shoves it through the slot. Imagine receiving a letter from an old friend instead of an 'add' on Facebook. That little leap of the heart when you see your name in handwriting on the envelope, when you feel the thickness of the folded letter within.

It saddens me that most people can't write. They really, really can't. I mark psychology essays sometimes, and the standard is staggeringly abysmal. I read people's funding submissions, and they can't even say what they mean in simple clear sentences. It's turgid, ghastly, weasel-word-ridden drivel. I'd like us all to be poets, delighting one another with our wit and invention and sparking ever wilder, bolder leaps of fancy and whimsy and humour and insight. I guess there never was a time when we were all poets, but at least we could spell, and we had lovely handwriting, and we could recite a few lines of Blake or Wordsworth.

I have written one love letter in my life. Apart from the adolescent tragedies which, if they still exist, are sufficient reason for me never to stand for public office. Worse than Pauline Hanson. Far worse. I have written one real love letter in my life, and I did it in Microsoft Word. Printed it out, for Christ's sake, in Times New Roman or Garamond or something, and put it in her letterbox, along with the panties she'd inadvertently left in my bed. What was I thinking? I've lived forty years and in that time I've only really written one love letter and I fucking well did it on a word processor. Which meant of course that I got to keep a copy in My Documents, in the folder named 'love', I suppose. It would have been better to scribble it in shitty red biro on the back of a torn phone bill than do it in Word. A love letter is a physical object, like a feather, a pressed flower. It is not 'information'. You cannot 'keep a copy'. There is no 'copy'. There is the love letter and the love ketter is the love letter is the love letter. I kept a copy, because I thought it was a good love letter, but I missed the point that you have to give it away. Like love itself, you can't have your cake and eat it, give it and hold onto it at the same time. It destroys the very small, almost imperceptible magic that is in the letter. 

One decent love letter in my whole life and I did it on the computer! I wonder if she kept it anyway.

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