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Correspondence

I’m reading David McCullough’s new book, “A Greater Journey,” about Americans in Paris in the mid-nineteenth century. http://www.amazon.com/Greater-Journey-Americans-Paris/dp/1416571760. It’s charming, informative, well written, but the book could not have been done without a treasure trove of correspondence and journals. These are all quoted at length. And that set me to wondering, yet again, about what we are leaving behind for historians to plumb when they begin their search for our times.
How many of us still correspond, at length, with friends and family? How many of us still print out our photographs?

Even among my writer friends, the art and practice of corresponding—at leisure and at length—has stopped, nearly entirely. Two journalist friends in London, devoted letter writers just a decade ago, now only send much shorter, less contemplative, far less descriptive emails. Like mine, they are mostly hurriedly written, between other obligations. Only a cousin, who lives a relatively secluded writer’s life on Gabriola Island in Canada, still writes me long, descriptive narratives which he writes off-line and then pastes into an email. They seem generic, catch up emails, personalized in a paragraph or two at the beginning or end. They are still pleasurable to read, of course, but who will save them for posterity?

I have written in this blog about postcards and this practice has also nearly ended. Why not just dash off an email or post, together with photographs, to Facebook while traveling? And what, then, will happen to that record? Eventually? It all becomes ephemera. It already is ephemera.

I was reminded this week of how rapidly technology changes, frustrating attempts to access what we wrote just a few years ago. With the success of my new e-book, “Water Baby; Five Novellas,” http://www.amazon.com/Water-Baby-Five-Novellas-ebook/dp/B005RFUYB8, I have decided to update and revise “Searching for Fritzi,” and to re-release it as an e-book. I contacted the designer to find out if he still had a file of the text and the cover. He found the cover, excellent, now for the text. No such luck. I rummaged through my boxes and found my stored floppies but, of course, have no floppy drive in my new computer and, even if I could get the floppy read somewhere—and I am sure I could—how would I convert it from Ami Pro to Word?

All for the best, of course, in the end. I opened a new file and set to work, revising and updating, as promised. It’s been a very interesting and challenging exercise. And once online as an e-book, “Searching for Frtizi” will live in the cloud for all eternity, solace indeed.
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