Saturday, March 27, 2010

Yours Ever: People and Their Letters by Thomas Mallon

In these days of MySpace, Facebook, emails, and you remember the last time you sat down and tried to write someone a letter?--Not just a note, or card, but a letter.

Thomas Mallon's book discusses the loss of these social and historical artifacts. I don't know if his book is truly as he says an "elegy to the genre" (I hope it is not truly dead), but it does make you think. What are the implications of losing such a rich connection with history? It has been said that letters are the lifeblood of history and the beating heart of biography, so what do we do without these tools that help us monitor the interior climate? One thing is certain, we won't be re-reading old emails or text messages or blog posts in our golden years, and our children won't be able to browse our emails after we're gone to gain any insight into what their parents were like when they were younger.

Mallon's book is a delightfully wide-ranging chronicle of this lost art. He organizes his material thematically and jumps around a lot, but if you are the sort who deplores the absence of salutations and polite closings in electronic correspondence, chances are you'll really like this book.

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