December 22, 2010


My reading list? Almost entirely non-fiction. I read a few short stories from time to time, but I very rarely pick up a novel. When I do, it is only because the piece of fiction came highly recommended by someone whose recommendation I really trust.

My reading list is almost entirely non-fiction, but even within that category, I have my favorites. I enjoy books about sports and food, and can get easily wrapped up in books about cultural studies and anthropology.

Most of all, I love books that are collections of letters. I am not usually a fan of the memoir or the biography; the letter collection is different. An anthology of correspondence is more than a reflection upon life, but instead a series of snapshots of life as it is, at a particular moment.

Unlike a memoir, a letter is not written for a large audience. It is most often written for a single person, with a tone and voice that reflects the relationship between the writer and recipient. A series of letters, pieced together, lets us read a story as it is being written; it lets us follow a life as it is being lived.

I could get lost in a collection of letters for hours. I have, often.

Earlier this week, I dropped the last of my Christmas cards into the mailbox at my nearest Canada Post. Some of them were hand-made, some of them were store-bought, but all of them contained hand-written, personalized messages of cheer for the holidays.

If you count the Christmas cards, I sent about 250 notes, letters, or cards to people around the world this year. Some of them were short, some of them were long, some of them celebrated birthdays and holidays, and some of them were simple reminders to people that I was thinking of them. All of them were written with love.

The number of letters and notes I have written and posted has gone down in the past couple of years (in 2007 I sent close to 400 pieces of mail to friends) but my fondness for hand-written correspondence has not waned. Next year, I hope to send even more letters and notes, and perhaps a few postcards too.

And perhaps I’ll receive a few in return. While I don’t ever expect a hand-written reply, when I do receive them, I keep and cherish them.

I wonder, sometimes, if anyone keeps the letters and notes that I send them. I don’t expect them to; while they are heartfelt, they are hardly works of art or literary masterpieces. But I wonder, sometimes, if one day, long after I have passed away, someone will find a box of letters I have written — and another one of letters I have received — through the years and piece together the jigsaw puzzle of a friendship or a relationship through words that were sent by post.

I wonder, sometimes, if those words will tell a story that I’m still writing, make sense of a life I’m still living, right now.