Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The "Write" Stuff

When I am in my car, I love to listen to audio books. Sure, there are some problems with audio books: you can’t make notes or highlight the text, and though there are thousands of recorded books, the ones I want to “read” are not always available in that format. However, I particularly enjoy listening to history and biography.

Presently, I am listening to Franklin and Winston: an Intimate Portrait of an Epic Friendship by Jon Meacham. Much of the source material for this book comes from correspondence between Churchill and Roosevelt; Hopkins and Churchill; Churchill and Eleanor Roosevelt, and many others. The letters are all well written and have a literary value all their own.

This has been the case for centuries. Correspondence – both personal and official – provides the “stuff” of biography and history. In our day, I wonder if we have lost the art of letter writing. What will historians, biographers, and archaeologists use in the future when they report about our age (unless Harold Camping is indeed correct and it’s all over by 2012)?

Letters have been replaced by cell phones, Blackberries, email, instant messaging, and other forms of instant communication. Electronic correspondence is fickle; it can last forever on some server or hard drive, or it can dissolve into cyberspace in a second.

Writing letters that are substantial, personal, well-written, and enduring is hard work. I love email – but the romantic in me wants to write letters.

By the way, a friend has made this observation that I think is relevant. We have more communication devices than ever before in human history, and yet one of the main issues in marriages, homes, and businesses is a lack of communication. How ironic.

1 comment:

Amy B. said...

Do you count these as books read? I've always wondered if you can say you've read a book when really you've just listened to it on tape/cd. I think you can.