The Hand-Written Letter Is The New LP
January 5, 2009
Have I mentioned how much I enjoy reading Alan Jacobs’ new blog at Culture11, Text Patterns? Anyway, today he’s got a post up talking about “The Age of Correspondance.” Though it’s not his title for whichever age it is that text messages and e-mail are ushering us into, my immediate reaction was to draw a distinction between the average e-mail (at least in my inbox) and certainly the average text message and the term “correspondence.” I think the latter denotes something more substantive, and not necessarily by means of a fountain pen or typewriter.
Letter-writing isn’t dead by any means, nor do I think it’s going to go that way. But what remains will be increasingly intentional: writing a letter with the aim of engaging in correspondence rather than merely keeping-in-touch. After all, we have e-mail and The Facebooks for that now, no? My only real engagement with letter-writing (excepting those obligatory notes home from summer camp) have been very deliberate: between a friend and myself, in part because her camp-counsellor job one summer was going to severely limit internet access, but also because we both wanted to try that type of writing as a particular form.
I’ve got to admit: I find it much more pleasurable than e-correspondence; there’s something inimitable about the feel of a pen on paper — whether it’s one of my nicer “writing” pens or the cheap Bic ballpoint I was using today to take notes in class. Writing by hand requires a more deliberate mind and prose than typing on a computer: when each mistake and correction still leaves some trace on the page (unless you scrap it entirely), you become more cautious about the type of mistake you’re willing to make, if not mistakes altogether. The result is a style at once more finished and with more traces of having been hewn from something — of having been written?
That, and the “small pleasures, small moments of imaginative vision,” are not limited to the archivist and the academic: the form itself has a certain character otherwise lacking (compare a vinyl LP to a CD or mp3, except it’s visual stimulus, and probably more real), and I, at least, find great pleasure in reading handwriting that — even though it may win no awards for penmanship (mine certainly wouldn’t) — has character to it.