Some people think it’s snarky and hip and smart to disparage Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. Some people are silly.
But I’m not going to swoon over Mr. Darcy or applaud the spunk of Lizzie or stick up for Charlotte’s sense of self. I want to celebrate the use of letters in the novel. Come on now – the letter when Mr. Darcy explains the scandals behind his behavior? There’s nothing better. And – oh my goodness! – the letter from Mr. Collins that gives Lizzie hope that all is not lost with Mr. Darcy. Email works just fine for relaying funny anecdotes and GIFs, but there’s no substitute for a well-written letter. None.
These days, with email and text messages and twitter and Facebook’s emoticons and who-knows-what will appear next year, we communicate abruptly and without the niceties of a personal signature.
Back in the olden days, kids used to write to their favorite authors, pen-pals, and cousins – and eagerly await a return reply, sometimes much later. These days it’s Skype, Google Hangout, and chatting over Facebook or Twitter. Admittedly, there’s a little tingle of excitement when someone you admire tweets back. But for the most part, there is little anticipation. Only half-hearted thoughtfulness in the writing. It seems like all we want these days is immediate gratification. Oh the horror if an email goes unanswered or a Facebook post seems ignored. And of course that sets up a sticky cycle of waiting by one’s chosen device to click and reply and add a cute smiley face next to someone’s hourly updates.
All this is to say, the long letters that used to break good and bad news and announce joy have sunk into oblivion due to some combination of laziness and feedback eagerness. And it’s a shame. Receiving a letter – hand-written, doodled on, folded and stamped – is a joy. Don’t you think so? It’s even more fun when a letter-writer is a creative artist who has a quirky sense of the world.
Check out what my talented friend Mical Moser sent a while back.
In her letter, Mical wrote such lovely things about the road trip we’d just been on and meeting my kids, and she included homemade pop-ups and graphics and actual “hair of the dog.”
I’ve gone back to read the letter several times, both for the words and the art Mical created.
My suggestion: celebrate the 200th Anniversary of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice by writing at least one REAL letter. Not just a Thank You note or Happy Birthday card – although those are nice. An actual “catching up” or “I have wanted to tell you” letter. And, if it’s your style, add something quirky or fun or surprising to the letter. Make it your very own craft project. Maybe you’ll even need to buy some crayons. Or cut up a magazine for color.
In comments, post a link to a letter (or photograph of a letter) you create for someone in your life. If I get a few, I’ll do a follow-up post featuring them.