Other people’s words about … emails
Dorothy used to love email, used to have long, meaningful, occasionally thrilling email correspondences that involved the testing of ideas and the exchange of videos and music links. Email had been the way that she and the people she know or was getting to know had crafted personas, narrated events, made sense of their lives. Their way of life, alas, had ended. Long emails had ceased being the preferred mode of storytelling among her peers, or perhaps they no longer had so much to say to one another, and emails, though sealed with perfunctory hugs and kisses, had become businesslike. Sending a thoughtful email that she had drafted over several days and edited would, she knew, be a form of aggression; it would be foisting unpaid labour, a homework assignment, on a friend. She herself liked homework, but it was unreasonable to hope for such an email: There was too much television to keep up on, and if you wanted to know what someone was doing, you could usually find out on social media. Still, Dorothy had not stopped checking, expecting, or wishing that a good message might be out there, waiting in the ether just for her.
from ‘The Life of the Mind‘
by Christine Smallwood
Oh, how wryly I smiled when I read the passage above. My smile was wry on two counts — first, I come from a generation before Dorothy’s, and so I miss letters as well as emails. And second, there is so much to unpack here, from the description of a long, thoughtful email as a form of aggression (ouch!) through to that funny but terribly sad comment: There was too much television to keep up on.
Shining sand, Aldinga Beach, May 2023.
Meanwhile, I’ve had some good news recently. As a result, my life has been exceptionally busy for reasons that I can’t (yet) go into, though I promise that I will when I can. But I couldn’t resist popping in to leave you all to enjoy the passage above for now.
As always, there are links to some reading below, too. I’ve listed a few more than usual, just to keep you going till I next write …
Rock pools, Aldinga Beach, May 2023.
Lately I’ve been reading …
- For a while, I kind of lost the joy of writing because suddenly, there was a sea of faces pressed to the glass, cooing at me, trying to see if they could get me to do a thing. Of course, there were no actual faces. People weren’t actively trying to make me do anything. But I felt that way. I had internalized a gallery of reproachful faces that smirked and sneered at every word I wrote: The always wonderful Brandon Taylor, on publishing his third novel, The Late Americans.
- Here was the truth: I was not a terrorist but a tourist: Omer Aziz, on identity, being a Brown man, being neither Westerner nor non-Westerner … and being a hyphenated man.
- He believed my pain, though; and what a relief that was, to be seen, in some crucial way: I wrote recently about reading Oliver Mol’s wonderful book about his experience of a chronic migraine, Train Lord. In my post I touched on my own experiences with a chronic headache. Here, Hanna Halperin writes about her experience of migraine, chronic pain, distrust of her own body and the way the medical establishment has failed her. This is a short piece but with much that I found resonant. I know my body intimately, she writes. I’ve never had a good sense of what I look like, how much I weigh, how much or how little space I take up. Every look in the mirror shows me somebody different. But how can you receive treatment if you can’t describe your embodied experience? I highly recommend it as a follow-up to Mol’s book if you’re interested in this topic.
- But our culture of instrumentality has settled like a thick fog over the idea that some activities are worth pursuing simply because they share in the beautiful, the good, or the true: Josephe M. Keegin, arguing against instrumentality and for a life spent in pursuit of splendid uselessness (in other words, art for art’s sake).
- You’d think we despise/the way they slide together: Poet Ellen Bass on four-letter words and swearing. If you are not easily offended, this is a beautiful, angry, tender poem about connecting.
- It’s always dry now. If there is no water, the animals are sad: A Phinaya herdsman tells Angela Ponce, Sarah Johnson and Illa Liendo about the effects of climate change in the Andes on their lives.