----- Original Message -----
From: Dmitri Nabokov
To: 'D. Barton Johnson'
Sent: Thursday, December 01, 2005 3:02 AM
Subject: FW: Edmund White and Vladimir Nabokov ...

Don -- I strongly suspect, for a couple of reasons, that she means Edmund Wilson and Vladimir Nabokov.
-----Original Message-----
From: Sandy P. Klein [mailto:spklein52@hotmail.com]
Sent: jeudi, 1. décembre 2005 01:44
To: SPKlein52@HotMail.com
Subject: Edmund White and Vladimir Nabokov ...

Wednesday, November 30, 2005 2:02 PM PST

Of sealing wax and e-mails
Daily Princetonian Tue, 29 Nov 2005 9:45 PM PST

    One of my great daily delights is glancing at my email's postage stamp desktop icon and seeing a red dot in the upper right hand corner, indicating that I have new mail. Yes, I do realize that my dependence on this red dot is pretty pathetic, especially given that the bulk of the mail is usually spam from various campus organizations whose mailing lists I signed up for out of guilt for taking their cookies and/or candy at the student groups fair. But I can't help holding out hope that there might be at least one decent email in there with some good news or a friend's amusing story or even my dad writing to say he's raised my allowance.

    The trouble with email is, despite the almost instant gratification it provides — or doesn't, if someone dares to take several hours or even more to reply — there is an inherent element of casualness that lessens many of the potential joys of written communication. Call me anachronistic, but I can't help but feel that our switch from writing letters to typing emails has caused an irreversible decline in the value we place on both communication and the written word.

    I've been thinking a lot about the issue of letter-writing this semester, as my John Keats-centric junior seminar includes weekly reading assignments of his letters. There is something guiltily voyeuristic about the experience of reading someone's private letters, but there is also — both in Keats' letters and in other correspondence I've read — an element of poignancy. It seems that the days of beautiful letter writing have gone the way of quill pens, sealing wax and corsets (much to my dismay, especially after Thanksgiving).

    This alone makes me sad. But what truly got me upset was reading a love letter Keats had written to his fiancée Fanny Brawne, in which he declared: "I could be martyr'd for my Religion — Love is my religion — I could die for that — I could die for you." My first thought was not "Oh, isn't that sweet?" It was, instead: "If any man sent me a letter like that, I would get a restraining order against him." Now, perhaps this simply indicates the dearth of love letters in my life. But I think it also shows just how much coming of age in a generation relatively devoid of letter-writing has affected our response to written communication in general.

    Don't get me wrong, I do appreciate the convenience, and at times even the casualness, of email. It's liberating to vomit out your thoughts and send them off, knowing you can get a quick reply. But I think that email has made us lazy, and that this mindset has devalued communication in general. It's so easy to jot something down and send it off that there's no emphasis on putting time and thought into what we say. Though I'm sure there are people who still write letters among my peers, it seems like a sort of affectation.

    What I really shudder to think is that, if email has indeed replaced letter-writing as the main mode of written communication (let's leave AIM out of it for the moment), what does that mean for the future of great correspondence? I understand that the famed correspondences of the past have usually occurred between established writers and a comparison between the letters of say, Edmund White and Vladimir Nabokov and the email I might send to my friend is unfair. But as well-educated college students, we should be maintaining higher standards for communication. Will scholars a generation or two from now read hastily-jotted emails to gain a greater understanding of people's lives? Is this the legacy of correspondence and communication we want to leave? Not that I anticipate this happening to me, but "Cailey Hall, the College Years," would hardly be a "page"-turner.

    I'm not sure if there is a solution to this problem. Perhaps it was bound to happen. Perhaps I'm overreacting and there is still self-discovery and value in email communication. Perhaps what this all comes down to is that I am hopelessly old-fashioned. But as much as I foolishly love the fleeting hope encompassed within that red dot, I wish we still lived in a time when this hope was wrapped in paper and held together by sealing wax. I think it would mean more.

Cailey Hall is an English major from Los Angeles, Calif. She can be reached at schall@princeton.edu.

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