01 July 2024

Dear Friend:

            I know you haven’t heard from me for a while.  I’ve been busy, what with geo-political upheavals and the local zoning board hearings, the copy editor’s final notes on the review copy of my book, to say nothing of feeding the needy cats and attending my cousin’s son’s bar mitzvah (I was there for the bris, not actually there, but in spirit) taking so much of my time, I can hardly drag myself into the email ecosphere. 

I do have a topic in mind, and that’s the importance of maintaining a regular correspondence, even though you’re so much better at this than me.  I have two points:  1.  Connections established and preserved over time through the written word are precious and indispensable.  2.  Writing letters is the best practice any writer can ever have.  By that I mean any person who writes for a living/wants to write for a living/loves writing/is occasionally stalled in a big writing project and needs to limber up before going back at it again.  For writers, writing letters is like training for the New York Marathon.  Without the dehydration and sprained ankles. 

You might not believe this, but I’m always very excited to see your emails pop up in my gmail account.   You could tell me anything you want, and I’d be enthralled, because I can hear your voice in your words, see your face, and imagine your life going through various triumphs and travails.  I find myself really wanting to know all about Spotty’s gastrointestinal difficulties, the struggle to pay all those vet bills, your benighted spouse denting the new Subaru, little Evelyn’s soccer goal, and the short-listing for the National Book Award. 

My life is so much less interesting than yours, since most of it is consumed by hours at this keyboard in a tiny apartment on the Upper West Side with two cats and a neighbor whose snoring is loud enough to be entered in the Guinness Book of World Records.  Though by now, it’s become sort of soothing.  I might miss it when I start my book tour, sending me to places where the walls are thicker and the loudest noises are the Harleys fleeing from law enforcement. 

You might realize that we’ve been writing to each other for about thirty years, ever since we started passing notes in Mrs. Braverman’s social studies class, including that one Mrs. Braverman intercepted where I noted she had a little piece of tissue stuck to her chin and nobody had the courage to tell her.   She got very red, but did thank me, sotto voce, after class, to her credit.  Since then, all this back and forth with you has never stopped, even when you were in Beirut and I had that little time away in rehab. 

The thing about letter writing is it’s very different from face-to-face conversation, or talking on the phone, which has it’s own peculiar qualities, positive and negative.  There’s something honest and pure about a letter.  Maybe because it isn’t a two-way communication until you hear back from your correspondent.  You’re writing it all alone in the quiet, dispensing a monologue that you control without interruption, unless a cat decides to jump on the keyboard.  Yet the whole time I’m writing to you, I’m thinking of you.  You’re there in my heart and in my mind.  I know who I’m addressing, and what you might want to hear about.  What amuses you, what stirs you to fire off a rejoinder.  It’s tailored exactly to your sensibilities and the tempo of our relationship.  And thus maybe the most personal of all types of communication. 

I’m sure you’ll answer this with a very funny satire on writers entering the formative stages of sentimental middle age, but I know you know what I mean.  I know because you’ve always sent me two letters, or emails, to every one I write back to you, so I know you understand why this is important.  And so much fun. 

Just because it isn’t a love letter, doesn’t mean you can’t send a letter to someone you love. 


Your Friend



  1. Amen, Chris. Most of my letters to lifelong friends all over the world now go out by email, but I send a one-page single-spaced one on paper with my holiday card every year. I used to write a couple of them in French (a lotta work!) for copains who still haven't succumbed to English, but now I just refer them to Google Translate. An Australian friend I met on the Channel ferry in 1966 (long before the Tunnel), another faithful letter writer to his friends all over the world, visited New York a few years back. An effervescent kind of guy (in fact originally from New Zealand but has lived in Brisbane, Australia most of his adult life), he told everyone (taxi drivers, people on the subway), "This is the first time we've seen each other in fifty years, and we've stayed in touch by letters! No email, no texting, no Facebook!"

  2. Priceless. I wrote a lot of letters home when I was living in London, and should have kept it up. One of my friends from high school, who passed away a while ago, would write several letters to various friends nearly every day. I still have them. A bit poignant.

  3. Chris, this reminds me so much about my mother. I think you've inspired to write an article about her letter-writing.


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