Since I got my fountain pen and pad of brown, lined, recycled paper, I’ve written about thirty letters: ranging from a few short paragraphs to one of several hundred pages. There was a time, about eight years ago, when I wrote a great many handwritten letters: probably more than a hundred in all. In one of the more cruel things ever done to me, a few years ago the recipient demanded to return or destroy them, en masse. I certainly didn’t want them returned, but I really hope they haven’t been destroyed for want of attic space. They were written during an incredibly embryonic time and, idiotic as they doubtless are in the greater part, I think of them as a partially externalized version of myself as I was and wanted to be. I want them out there as a challenge to the blurring of memory in response to time and new events.
Since then, I’ve been both too ashamed of my atrocious handwriting to write many things by hand. I have also been concerned about having information out there of which I have no record to back up recollections that inevitably become hazy with time. The greatest force that has changed my mind recently is the sheer and impossible volume of computer generated text: whether blog, email, or printed letter. In the face of such a flood of information, it is increasingly hard to get anyone (including myself) to pay attention. As a consummate record-keeper, I do have virtually every scrap of electronic information ever sent to me archived and searchable. Even so, I am far more likely to re-read the few letters I have received since arriving here (the rest being safely entombed with photographic negatives back in North Vancouver).
I’ve just finished writing a letter of the sort that you hope will become a bulwark between a past mistake and all the future. As always, there is no certainty that a few flimsy pages can prove so solid, but I shall hope and see.