The Art of the Love Letter

Brave in Heart Letter Page 1

Valentine’s Day is nearly upon us, which means that it’s time for me to write a love letter. And by that, I mean actually sit down and write one, with the pen and the paper and the envelope.

I’m not a big “nostalgize the form” kind of gal. I want nothing with Ludditism here. Once I got an e-Reader, I was happy to abandon physical books at least for pleasure reading. I can’t remember the last time I left a voicemail because it takes less time to read a text message. In general, out with the old!

But there is something about the physical experience of handwriting when it comes to the love letter that I want to maintain. The sound of the pen, the brush of the paper over your skin, the tactile event-ness speaks to what you’re trying to capture on the page. The handwritten love letter beautifully marries form and content.

When I wrote Brave in Heart, I handwrote parts of the novel out of necessity. My kids were in a grabby phase and I didn’t have full-time childcare. If I wanted to write when they were up, and sometimes I did, then handwriting was better than typing as the computer was too much fun to ignore.

But ultimately, certain scenes demanded to be handwritten, including the correspondence bridging two time gaps in the novel. I could not have typed the first drafts of those letters and generated what I did. They had to be written. What resulted is a sort of facsimile of the fictional object. Simulcra love letters.

And precisely because your beloved’s hand touches that same page you hold, his mouth wets the envelope, and so on, the love letter can be an object of veneration. Sorry, Mr. Benjamin, this is one aura I have no desire to destroy. (Frankfurt School digression: though he’d probably agree with me because there’s no mass production involved, at least if you start with blank paper and not a Hallmark card.)

A love letter is a work of art. It is a relict. It is timeless.

And now I’ve got to get to work on mine!

Brave in Heart Letter Page 2

*If you were to try to read them, these letters contain minor BiH spoilers. Edited versions appear in Chapter 11 of that book.

4 thoughts on “The Art of the Love Letter

  1. this is WONDERFUL, thank you so much for sharing! I agree, i write things very differently when i write on a page vs. typing on a screen. I have started writing out my diss notes and ideas and i find i work through my argument MUCH better that way. (loved the Frankfurt School comment, of course!).

    1. Thank you! There’s probably a much deeper level of analysis to be done here about whether Benjamin would support the auratic function of a non-mass produced item and whether he would favor the inherent sentimentalism in a love letter…but I’m going to go ahead and leave it here. ; )

  2. I’m impressed that you wrote so much of it free hand! That’s interesting that you had to hand write them in order to get the effect you wanted–and really, the letters in that book are beautiful! So it obviously works. :)

    1. Hand writing the letters helped me see how long the paragraphs needed to be, and how long the letters needed to be, to be authentic-ish. I’m so glad my kids forced me to do it. ; )

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