Episode Information

CMS: Lost Art of Letters
Aired:
02/24/2010
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In this episode:

We love getting letters, but in today's world, who has the time to send them?

 

Episode Audio

49:08 minutes (23.59 MB)
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I've got a folder containing memorable letters. The bulk of them are from Roy Blount Jr., pound for pound the funniest living correspondent in America.

If anybody's doing a collection, I've got some doozies, all written of course before e-mail ruined everything. But what I'm really struck by is the physicality of old letters. A letter is not just words. It's paper, handwriting or even a peculiar way of pounding something out on a typewriter. A letter is also the condition it's in.

I used to have a dog who hated the mail man. Every day, he waited by the slot in the door and, because he could not bite the mailman, he contented himself by grabbing the mail in his jaws as it passed from the other side through the slot. Then he would shake the mail, like a half-dead animal and kind of hurl it. So some of my old mail has tooth marks.

The dog was named after my favorite writer. Roy hated that mailman.

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***This broadcast originally aired December 23, 2009.***


 
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Listener E-mail from N.M.

I have to tell you a story about my 19 year-old son, Ted. You can interpret this as you wish: an example of a communication difference between his generation and ours or the product of spoiling parents, or both. He had to scan a copy of his drivers licence, birth certificate, and a couple of other forms which were to be sent to his college in South Brisbane. He popped his head into my room and said "I'm going up to post the letter". He is back in the couple of minutes, which surprised me, seeing the post office is 6km away in Ormeau and you usually have to wait to have it weighed and buy your stamps for a big envelope. Then it occurred to me. "I bet he didn't put any stamps on the envelope". When I quizzed him, I found that was true. He had actually just placed it in the corner postbox. The address had been written on the envelope for him, and fortunately his mother also wrote the return address on the back of the envelope. She had told him to go to the post office, but he figured, what's the difference. I'll just post it in the box. He didn't know that you had to put stamps on envelopes. "In my whole 19 years I've never posted a letter the old-fashioned way", he protested. "I send about 10 letters a day. When I send a letter, I just press "send" on the computer and off it goes". "But you get bank statements from the press in the mail", I said, "there are stamps on them".

"No there are not", he protested. Sure enough, there are no stamps on them. They are printed by a machine.

I guess I knew at about five years of age that you had to buy a stamp to post a letter. It sure is a different generation.