I have always been a paper junkie. I’ve hoarded enough writing paper and note cards, museum postcards and even old fashioned tissue thin “airmail” sheets and envelopes to write at least five letters every day between now and 2013. I bought the stuff because I love the way it feels and looks or what it reminds me of. But now I realize it’s past time to put some sentiments down on all that pretty paper and share them with the people I care about. Becoming the loyal letter writer I used to be is yet another of my New Year’s resolutions.
I don’t think I’m alone in this. Recently my family had some bad news, and I got some really thoughtful emails (which I will print out and keep), but also dozens of beautifully handwritten notes on a range of stationery that said a lot about each sender.
It’s not directly related, I know, but during this past holiday season, book sales in actual bookstores increased by substantial margins over the year before. Readers are realizing it’s important to support independent bookstores (like Taigan’s beloved Books & Books in Coral Gables, for example, or Heirloom Books in Charleston). There was a huge backlash when Amazon encouraged shoppers to use its dastardly price-check app (which allows shoppers in physical stores to see, by scanning a bar code, if they can get a better price online) to earn a 5 percent credit on Amazon purchases. Writer Andre Dubus said he saw the move as blatant attempt to monopolize the market, the effect of which would ultimately be to “further devalue, as a cultural and human necessity, the book itself.”
I think it’s good news that we suddenly seem to be craving the personal and tangible, whether it’s a book or a letter or even an anchorman. Last year, for the first time since 2002, the ratings of the Big Three nightly newscasts went up. Apparently, we want getting our information to be personal again too, not to mention reliable. Uncle Walter may be dead, but we’ll happily take Brian, Diane, or Scott over a collection of blogs or twitter feeds disseminated by God knows who, or a stable of incessant cable chatterers with no real portfolio.
If we are finally getting tired of the fragmented and the ephemeral, there is no place better to start than by writing a letter (and in this week’s Fetch, there are some swell accoutrements to help you do it). Can you imagine The Box Tops singing, “My baby, she wrote me an email?” Or worse, a tweet? No. Every once in a while at least, we want our babies, and our friends, to write us a letter. So get to it.