Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Dear friends,

I miss the days when people wrote letters. Do you? I so enjoyed reading them, writing them. Oh, I was glad enough to make the switch to typing - and even to reading and writing those letters on a computer screen. But these days - well, even email and personal blogging seem a touch archaic, don’t they?

Why is that? Is it because the barriers to voice communication have crumbled? With a phone in every pocket, long-distant fees negligible, Skype, Vonage, and the like, a phone call may just be the way to go.

And if not, we have all these new options: texting, tweeting, social networking, etc. All of these media are more interactive, convenient, efficient. They don't seem to take as much time.

But they do discourage the artful telling of stories and the careful exposition of ideas.

Shall the age of thoughtful, insightful, and engaging letters - ones more than 140 characters long - be forgotten?

I’m reading a book made up of letters between the various characters, and I love it. The book was recommended to me by a great friend from college days. Incidentally, think I still have some of the letters Gretchen sent me when that was our main means of staying in touch, back in the 1990s. Now we leave comments for each other on Facebook.

In The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, Juliet Ashton corresponds with her editor, his sister, and a group of people who form that Society to which the title refers. Guernsey is one of the Channel Islands (British islands off the coast of France). At the time the book has set the islanders are struggling to emerge from years of German occupation and isolation from the world. And through a strange twist of events during those dark days, their lives were intertwined and they discovered books. Juliet asks them how, and they write her letters. I think my favorite letter so far is from one Clovis Fossey, of Guernsey, who explains how his literary interests dawned:

4th March, 1946

Dear Miss,

At first, I did not want to go to any book meetings. My farm is a lot of work, and I did not want to spend my time reading about people who never was, doing things they never did.

Then in 1942 I started to court the Widow Hubert. When we’d go for a walk, she’d march a few steps ahead of me on the path and never let me take her arm. She let Ralph Murchey take her arm, so I knew I was failing in my suit.

Ralph, he’s a bragger when he drinks, and he said to all in the tavern, “Women like poetry. A soft word in their ears and they melt – a grease spot on the grass.” That’s no way to talk about a lady, and I knew right then he didn’t want the Widow Hubert for his own self, the way I did. He wanted only her grazing land for his cows. So I thought – If it’s rhymes the Widow Hubert wants, I will find me some…

If this tickles your fancy, pick up the book. And/or write someone a letter?



P.S. Did you think I was going to tell you how the life of leisure is suiting me? I think it's going to take some time to unwind and really enjoy it. And I'm still trying to push back the work-related things that don't want to stay at bay. Tuesday, though, as I sat in the afternoon sun with my cup of tea listening to Mozart and reading this delightful book, I got a glimpse of what contentment might look like.


Megan Noel said...

i have been sick in bed for a few days and read a book, readers of which also purchased the book you are reading. so i was thinking of adding to my list? you say i should? the book i was reading was the forgotten garden by kate morton. 4 stories over the generations intertwined. i enjoyed it. some nods to the secret garden and other british children's books and fairy tales as well (the author is australian.)

Marti said...

Sorry you are so sick, Meg! Talked to Mom today and she said you were going to try to go back to work. Hope it isn't exhausting! Yes, I think you might like "Guernsey." It reminds me a bit of Jean Webster's books, which we both enjoyed. Would I like Kate Morton?

Marti said...

Ooops, I meant to say, I talked to Mom yesterday, and she said she thought you were going to try to go back to work today. But you probably knew what I meant.