When I finish a good read, I avoid turning to another book right away. Instead, I’ll turn to short stories, essays, or poetry.
This week, I picked up one of my volumes of Letters of Note. Lifting the hardback copyis no easy feat. It’s a book that doubles for a barbell.
It’s the size of a coffee table book, but a coffee table book is a tome that is placed in a room for ambiance, a book that looks pretty. One may thumb through it on occasion to glance at pictures.
Letters of Note is “an eclectic collection of correspondence” worth reading. It’s full of—you guessed it—letters. Pages of thoughts to and from notable writers, artists, politicians, royals, musicians, scientists, and more.
One letter I came across was penned by science fiction mastermind Ray Bradbury to English author Brian Sibley. The opening offered a glance into Bradbury’s everyday life:
“…Sorry. But I am deep into my screenplay Something Wicked This Way Comes and have no secretary, never have had one…so must write all my own letters…200 a week.”
In his response to Sibley’s fear of Disney robots, Bradbury wrote: “I am not afraid of robots. I am afraid of people, people, people. I want them to remain human…I am afraid of Catholics killing Protestants and vice versa. I am afraid of whites killing blacks and vice versa…I am afraid of Communists killing Capitalists and vice versa….”
The thoughts and fears Bradbury expressed in his 1974 correspondence continue to haunt minds, break hearts, and erode peace today.
Another letter of interest was dated November 1940. It was written by Fidel Castro to President Franklin D. Roosevelt thirteen years before Castro led his historic revolution.
Castro was 14 in 1940, though in the letter, he claimed to be 12. The future dictator wrote, “I like to hear the radio, and I am very happy, because I heard in it, that you will be President for a new (perido.).”
Young Castro then revealed his purpose for writing: “If you like, give me ten dollars bill green american, in the letter, because never, I have not seen a ten dollars bill green american and I would like to have one of them.”
Castro received a standard reply from Roosevelt’s assistants—minus the ten-dollar bill.
Whether or not I’m familiar with the people who wrote them, the letters draw me in. Such was the case with Australian musician Nick Cave.
Cave continues to record and was popular during my teen years, but I was unaware of him. That may have had something to do with the themes of death and violence common to his music. Discovering that his band is called Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds would have had me tuning in to another station.
What can I say? I like music to dance by.
After he was nominated for Best Male Artist in 1996, Cave wrote an intriguing letter to request that the nomination be withdrawn. The musician was generous in his appreciation but firm in his stance.
Cave also asked that he not be considered for future awards. Give them to “… those who feel more comfortable with the competitive nature of these award ceremonies,” he said
Cave added, “I have always been of the opinion that my music is unique and individual and exists beyond the realms inhabited by those who would reduce things to mere measuring. I am in competition with no one.”
I admire Cave’s perception. Such awards suggest that the styles of artists—musical, literary, and otherwise—are similar. In reality, their uniqueness is incomparable.
The only negative in reading Letters of Note is that it reminds me that letter writing is in danger of extinction. Then what? Emails of Note?
writer, blogger, columnist