There is a debate among some educators over the merits of teaching cursive writing. In an age of computers and gadgets is there still a place for something as ‘old-fashioned’ as knowing how to write legibly? (I think there is.)
There might also be a debate about something equally important–the art of writing a letter. This week The New Yorker had a column that is worthy of pondering.
As you read the paragraph below ponder the loss of the letters from John and Abigail Adams.
If we stop writing letters, who will keep our history or dare venture upon a biography? George Washington, Oscar Wilde, T. E. Lawrence, Virginia Woolf, E. B. White, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Vera Nabokov, J. P. Morgan—if any of these vivid predecessors still belong to us in some fragmented private way, it’s because of their letters or diaries (which are letters to ourselves) or thanks to some strong biography built on a ledge of letters. Twenty years ago, many of us got a whole new sense of the Civil War while watching and listening to Ken Burns’s nine-part television documentary, which took its poignant tone from the recital of Union and Confederate soldiers’ letters home. G.I.s in the Second World War wrote home on fold-over V-Mail sheets. Troops in Afghanistan and, until lately, Iraq keep up by Skype and Facebook, and in some sense are not away at all.
Writers can’t stop writing, and it’s cheering to think which of them would have switched over to electronics had it been around. The poets Robert Lowell and Elizabeth Bishop conducted an enormous correspondence—four hundred and fifty-nine letters, between 1947 and 1977 (“What a block of life,” Lowell said), spanning three continents and, between them, six or eight different lovers or partners—but one need read only a few pages of these melancholic literary exchanges to know that the latest BlackBerry or iPhone never would have penetrated their consciousness.