I, reader, seriously dig mail – but not too much that gunk I pick through in the mornings (hotmail porn and Facebook messages). Rather, I am every day sorely disappointed when there is no personalized letter or postcard-from-godknowswhere. I’ll shrug the bills and magazines for a thirty-five-cent stamped Hello.
Albeit slower than sin and watermarked, whatever’s scrawled means more than some daily bloggery my Gray Fairy opts to download and any comment or e-mail any stranger or friend (no matter how important) can drum out. This is because there is some physicality to it all: someone has to put ink to paper and lick a stamp and drop it off and wait-and-wait-and-wait for a reply – and, of course, wondering whether it will make its destination, and never knowing for sure if gone unconfirmed or unacknowledged or, worse, unreturned.
Granted, epistolarity is a little artificial and performative. One must adhere to atleast some recognizable format and focus on readability, moreso than what we can nowadays do by rote keyboarding. I shudder to think that the near invisibility of the medium is like a clearer window into our inner thoughts, what with drivel like Hehehehehehehe! But I suppose you trade bluntstuff for the meaning of the effort put into mail-sailing.
And most importantly, just as it was in the eighteenth century when the epistolary novel was gaining steam, in a world wherein the lines of ownership and legal rights are blurred by redundant law and digital distribution, a handwritten note is the one tangible scrap of your inner stuff. Discourse nerds might marr your scribble by showing you through your word-choice your deep-seated social influences – but fuckem: if not original, then its Authentic. Sharing inked scratch and spit is truer conversation than an instant message, and somehow safer to express what’s deep-down without fretting about your stammer and your hair.