There were two writers in my family. One was my father who was a journalist. By some sort of tragic quirk the only evidence that I have is his signature in his King James Bible. I only have half of it as part of the page was torn out. I have no idea why. Some years ago I went to Buenos Aires and persuaded the editor of the Buenos Aires Herald to allow me to search the microfiche files to see if I could find my father’s byline. He warned me that in the 40s and early 50s reporters wrote anonymously. My father simply did not exist in those files.
The other writer was my mother’s sister Dolly de Irureta Goyena Tow Humphrey (unmarried name, and two as married). She wrote several books of poetry but had the peculiar talent of writing killer letters. Some of these could get you riled up and angry. While in the Argentine Navy in the 60s I corresponded with her regularly and we compared notes on the staff working with the president of the United States, LBJ.
I believe that I may have inherited from both my father and my aunt Dolly, an ability, if not to write well, to at least write good personal letters. I have written many in my past and I remember the frustration of not being able to type them (dyslexia always prevented me from writing smoothly on a machine) or being able to write legibly. Sometime when I was in my early 20s my handwriting began to deteriorate. At age 70 I am unable to sign my name completely. Something in my brain prevents me so I finish with gibberish scratches.
I have written letters that while not quite being poison letters have made people concerned, angry at me and in some cases worried about my mental health. I may have hinted suicidal tendencies in some of my past missives. But then I am one of those who find solace in being depressed and finding ways of intensifying the feeling by listening to Kind of Blue or reading melancholic poetry.
There is a new columnist for the NY Times who used to be the paper’s food critic. He is Frank Bruni. He is terrific. I read everything he writes. This Sunday’s Review (I am writing this today Sunday, November 18, 2012 and read the Bruni column last night) features something by him called Our Hard Drives, Ourselves. It is about a computer’s ability to ease us into writing much too intimately, much too quickly and without much concern of its consequences. A couple of paragraphs and one line caught my eye:
Back in the era of Jane Austen novels a suitor put pen to paper, his pace slow, his pauses frequent and the reply — itself written in longhand — probably weeks away. Romance had a rhythm that accommodated reconsideration. It had a built-in cooling off period. The sexting, cyber-assisted hookups and online affairs of today have nothing of the sort. They unfold at the speed of impulse, in part because they have such a hypothetical, provisional aspect, negotiated as they are in a cloud of sorts, no contact required. But their weightlessness is paired with their durable record.
Reading that line “speed of impulse” made me think of those days so long ago when I penned intimate love letters to Suzy. I was in Buenos Aires and she was vacationing in resort town by the Atlantic Ocean called Pinamar. I would anxiously await her replies, her neat handwriting on crisp Hotel Pinamar letterhead.
I might start writing long hand love letters to my Rosemary except there is one problem, she cannot read my handwriting. That’s two of us.
Originally published at blog.alexwaterhousehayward.com.