I stumbled upon a video this week of Kurt Vonngenut’s words being read by Benedict Cumberbatch. This event happened at England’s Hay Festival. From what I can tell, it’s a festival about all things awesome, including literary things.
This letter was addressed to someone who censored one of the writer’s books. It was not only censored but burned. BURNED! The letter was passionate and fiery and direct. The letter itself was art.
This video made me think about this letter and other letters by writers. I became sad that this art form was being lost and that learning more about our favorite writers — what items made them take pen to paper in an effort to convey an infinite amount of emotions and knowledge, and their thought process — was giving way to the blog post.
I know it’s ironic. Me of all people saying that, and writing that in this a type of blog post, but how I feel about writing letters, about artists writing candid letters, is the reason for so many things.
In grad school, I read letters written by Raymond Chandler to his agent and other writers. Those letters were part of a collection I found in a used bookstore in Port Townsend, WA. I have never read those letters in any other place but in that collection. Among the correspondence was a letter from Chandler to his agent about what he thought made a good detective story. It outlined what was important and what was, essentially fluff.
Obviously, as someone trying her hand in mystery fiction this year this piece of amazement was something I needed to hear.
That’s what letters are about. They teach. They add insight. They are time capsules, a page of history for all to enjoy.
The thought of not having access to these letters makes me sad. I wish there was a way for writers to write letters of note, at least to their readers. Just if it’s even to say hello or that the sky was blue. This is important for work and important for reading.
While I’m sure a tweet or a retweet can make a reader feel that their favorite writer is listening to them, and visa versa, a letter is so much more. I’m glad I’m writing weekly (or so) letters to you guys and I hope you like reading them too.
Creatively, this week has been disappointing in terms of volume of production. However, I am happy with the quality of production, which makes the past seven days redeemable. I took to writing the last scene of the latest Jennie Manning story on my typewriter. I like using it and wished I could use it more often. There’s something about the way the keys hit the page. There’s a connection to the words there, an authenticity that a computer screen can’t duplicate. I’m not sure that authenticity is the right word but it’s the right sentiment, the trueness of the experience of writing. This is what I’m referring to — the purposefulness of words (since there is no deleting or backspacing), the rhythm of the keys tied to the fingertips, then the arms, the shoulder, the neck, the brain. That delicious, intoxicating rhythm when the brain is practically drilling the story onto the blank page. This is something that a typewriter can do that a computer can’t.
It was with this old-fashioned sentiment that I took to my machine and wrote out the last scene, at least a draft of it. I am not done with the story yet but I know where it’s going. The light at the end of the tunnel is coming ever closer with this story. This makes me happy.
Reader, you must think me old fashioned between the ode to letter writing and my prose creation on a typewriter. Ha! I’m far from it. Spend any time on this blog or on my Twitter account and you’ll know that’s not true. But something about these two things tie readers and writers together in a way few things can. And that’s the kind of writer I want to be, one who is bonded with their readers with sincerity.
Until next week,