Because Tinyletter is mostly for mail, it’s nearly impossible to find old newsletters. So I’m posting all my old newsletters here so they can be searched, indexed, all that. You’re still better off just subscribing.
Lee Harvey Oswald died on November 24, 1963, at the age of 24.
November 24, 2018
As previously mentioned about a year ago, in the Holiday Cards Newsletter, I am enamored of simple old-fashioned letter writing. I remember, back at the University of Illinois, taking an elective class called “The Future Of Writing In The Age Of The Internet.” My term paper for that class was an earnest, deeply sincere argument that because the Internet would require every adult to write, and think about writing, much more regularly than they ever had before, there would be an uptick in the quality of writing in general: With all that writing, people couldn’t help but raise our level of rhetorical discourse!
Well: I have about five different cow emoji that might refute that particular term paper. At this point, when someone bothers to write me an actual email — rather than farting out a Tweet at me — I basically treat them like Dorothy Parker, even if they’re calling me a shithead. (Especially if they’re calling me a shithead: No one was better at finding creative ways to call people shitheads than Dorothy Parker.) And even the best emails I receive are forgotten within a week, swept into an infinite archive that we never revisit save for the occasional flippant keyword search. Words have never been more disposable than they are right now.
A letter, though: A letter is different. You keep letters. My parents are in the midst of boxing up their old house in Mattoon — they’re moving out to Athens full-time in 2019, and I’ll warn in advance, dear reader, that this is going to a major topic of many repetitive wistful remembrances over the next few months — and they’ve found all these old letters, from notes my dad sent my mom from the Air Force in the late ‘60s to correspondence with my late uncles from their ‘80s heyday in Philadelphia to homesick postcards I sent from church camp when I was 11, to letters I sent my parents on Daily Illini stationary, trying to show off, trying to look important. You hold onto a letter, and you revisit it. When was the last time you looked at an email that was sent more than a year ago? I have shoeboxes full of letters, and I can dive back into them any time I wish, to see who I once was, how things once were, how they might be again.
But there aren’t many letters from the last few years. There are hardly any, in fact. I have my own stationary for thank you notes and occasional missives to old friends, but I’m not using it nearly enough. I miss tangible letters. I miss something I can hold in my hand. Something I can keep.
So in 2019, I’m going to change this. I’m going to start right now, and I’m going to do it in two different ways. The first is that I’m going to reconnect with some old friends, people who are important to me but with whom I’ve lost touch, or at least don’t talk to nearly as much as I would like to. Just glancing at them, past them, really, on Facebook is not enough. We are all getting old enough that you can’t take any time, or person, for granted anymore. So I’ll be reaching out to them, just to say hi. They’ll probably think I’m dying when they get the letter, or in some sort of recovery program where I have to apologize for old slights. But it’s important, I think, to let people know they’re still in your brain, that they’re still a part of who you are, even if it has been years since you were at your closest. They can have something of me they can throw in a shoebox and come back across years from now. Hopefully they’ll send me something I can put in my own, to do the same.
Which brings me to the second part, and this part involves you. I want us to write letters back and forth. I don’t know what we’re going to talk about, because you haven’t written to me yet. But I want you to. I even set up a P.O. Box to do it:
P.O. Box 48
Athens GA 30603
You can write something long, you can write something short, you can write something meaningful, you can write something brutish and cruel. You can ask me questions, you can confess your darkest secrets, you can start a long-distance ongoing chess match, you can send me your grocery list, you can just talk Illinois basketball if you want to. It doesn’t matter. But I will write you back. And we can have a dialogue, a personal dialogue, written with our own hands, to each other. It will not be immediate gratification for either one of us. It will have to float through our — remarkable, honestly — postal system, and land in our mailboxes, and give us time to reflect. We will not compose our correspondence in between glances at Twitter, or while watching a video of a cat falling into a bathtub, or shortly after gritting our teeth at the latest Trump atrocity. We can take a moment to step away from it all and just ... write a letter.
I don’t know how this project will work, or what its point even is. I just think it will be good for both of us. So write me. I promise I will write you back. Let’s do this together.
Here is a numerical breakdown of all the things I wrote this week, in order of what I believe to be their quality. (This is an attempt to have an objective look at the value of my work in a way that I suspect will be difficult to sustain.)
1. How We Value First Basemen Now, MLB.com. Thanksgiving Week is always a light one, as it should be. This was a more interesting piece, I think, than the headline sold it as, though. (It’s not even a real ranking.) Off-weeks are good for the soul, though, from time to time.
2. Debate Club: Best Genre Families, SYFY Wire. All hail the Incredibles.
3. The Thirty: Best Free Agents From Each Team Next Year, MLB.com. I sort of miss Michael Wacha already.
THE WILL LEITCH SHOW
We’re on hiatus until February! Get caught up with the ones you missed on Amazon or on SI TV.
Grierson & Leitch, fun show, with excellent conversations on “Widows” and “The Ballad of Buster Scruggs.”
Waitin’ Since Last Saturday, reviewing the Massachusetts win, previewing today’s Georgia Tech game, which I will be at.
Seeing Red, no show this week.
Also, if you are in Athens this weekend, join me and the Waitin’ Since Last Saturday guys at Koa Surf Bar on College Avenue after the game to watch the Iron Bowl and drink. It’ll be fun!
Have a great weekend, all. Send me those letters. There’s no need for any of us to be alone.