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Mourning the Letters That Will No Longer Be Written, and Remembering the Great Ones That Were

The New York Times Critics Notebook, Dwight Garner – “Before the telephone wounded them and email administered the death blow, handwritten letters were useful: They let you know who the crazies were. A lunatic’s barbed wire script would lurch in circles across the page, like a fly with a missing wing. No longer. On Twitter and Gmail and Facebook and elsewhere, the justified left- and right-hand margins can temper a lot of brewing delirium. That’s one reason I miss correspondence. A more essential reason is that, perhaps like you during these months under quarantine, I’ve rarely felt so isolated. I speak with my family and friends on the phone, but my heart is only two-thirds in it; I’m not a telephone person. I dislike Zoom even more. Is that really my walleyed gaze in the “Hollywood Squares” box on my laptop? Last fall I moved out of New York City, for a year, to work on a book. The person I now see most often, besides my wife, is our cheerful and fiercely sun-tanned postal carrier, out on her rounds. I find her appearances on our side porch oddly moving. They’re a sign of normality, proof that government is still clicking on some of its old tracks. The Postal Service has come to mean more to many people during lockdown, and it’s incredible that the president wants to smash it…”

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