Requiem for Letters

Posted inThe Daily Heller
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These days most of the hand- or typewritten letters we usually receive are “official” or “junk” correspondence. Email is, after all, quicker and easier for personal greetings. However, personal letters and cards make better artifacts.

Recently, I uncovered a cache of letters I had saved since the 1970s from artists and writers with whom I had corresponded with for various reasons. The batch includes missives from Tom Wolfe, Robert Rauschenberg, Red Grooms, Gyorgy Kepes, Andre Francois, Fritz Eichenberg, Roland Topor, Milton Glaser, Tomi Ungerer, Erik Nitsche, Paul Rand and many others. Funnily, as I read these short and long letters, I recalled almost every one, if not verbatim, then at least that I received them. I can’t say I have the same recall of emails.

A few of those artifacts are reproduced here. From R. Crumb (1982), Feliks Topolski (the great chronicler of the passing scene, 1983) and George Nelson (1985).

Before the early 70s I didn’t save letters, and I had received some great ones from Spanish painter Joan Miro (who wanted a subscription to The New York Review of Sex), Salvador Dali (who turned me down for a design commission), and even President Dwight D. Eisenhower (who rejected my invitation for dinner – I was just seven years old).

Incidentally, here are some other fascinating letters – job rejections I found sent to an educated young woman, Zola Shirey, who was vigorously trying to build her career in the hospitality industry during the Great Depression. They were beautifully reprinted in Esopus magazine. I guarantee they will break your heart.