Thursday, September 21, 2006

correspondence

I like reading letters, correspondences between two people over the years. I enjoy the balance of truth and invention, the rhythm of the mundane punctuated by the rare spark of excitement or wonder or grief. I like the patter, the engagement between two faithful letter-writers, how ideas are first expressed early on perhaps ineffectively, and how, like structured music, the idea is returned to and expanded on until it becomes a theme, a life theme. I enjoy letter by people who love to write letters, who have none of the impatience of today's texts and emails, who are brief when they choose to be and not because they have nothing to say. When this epistolary yearning comes over me, I seek out a collection of missives and hunker down. Most recently, I was with Einstein through his difficult years (an alienated wife and two sons growing without him, as he struggles to complete his thoughts on Relativity).

Today, unexpectedly, I was with James Tiptree, Jr. and Ursula Le Guin, Tree and Starbear, enveloped in the exchanges between two of SF's most wonderful writers. Tiptree kept a secret: that he was really a woman named Alice B. Sheldon. The tension and friendship between Le Guin and Tiptree is wonderfully captured by their correspondence. Being writers, they talked about writing, but went far and beyond what one would expect, deep into the expanse where questions exist questions like:

"Why is that when you read a story by a new writer you didn't know before you think this is pretty good but I HATE this person and loathe him and am jealous and feel morally superior & all the rest of Pandora's box... and you read a new story by another writer you didn't know before and you think this is pretty good and by gum isn't it lovely to find a new writer you didn't know before and you like?? Why is it?" - Ursula Le Guin

I was moved and my mind provoked - and all this from the latest issue of F&SF (September).

Oh, and another reason I enjoyed the magazine (in addition to the well-written fiction) is a bit from Harlan Ellison that had me smiling:

"What every professional writer (whether s/he has ever written and sold a story or not), is the core secret that makes every pro or wannabe a capable storyteller of professional ability: an idea is not a story."

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