But, no arithmetic at least not unless you figure the cost of postage.
These words might be more familiar — readin' and 'riting' and 'rithmetic, taught to the tune of a hick'ry stick — from the 1907 American song, School Days, written by Will D. Cobb and Gus Edwards. Its lyrics reflect a couple reminiscing about their primary school childhood. The chorus is the best known part:
School days, school days
Dear old Golden Rule days
'Readin' and 'riting and 'rithmetic
Taught to the tune of the hick'ry stick
You were my queen in calico
I was your bashful, barefoot beau
And you wrote on my slate, "I Love You, Joe"
When we were a couple o' kids
As often, I digress since this post is not about school or an old-time song, but about a current upswing in what's popularly called snail-mail correspondence or good old-fashioned letter writing.
rather very long post is about two things that myself and many others have been doing more or a lot of during the coronavirus pandemic — writing and reading.
Writing in the form of posted📮📬 letters, cards and notes preceding emails, texts, and for years the traditional way that many communicated, is once again in style.
Reading is what I've been doing these past
few many months in shutdown and isolation mode along with a lot of other folks. I've read more books than included here, but haven't posted about good (or bad) reads in recent months. So this is a catch-up post.
Traditionally and historically, people wrote letters and postcards all the time, granted there was no other way to connect with distant friends and family. Years ago, folks sent letters, travel postcards, and holiday cards (posted not e-cards). Remember when fountain pens were more prevalent than ball points? I had a Waterman pen that refilled from an ink jar. OK, I'm not dating myself; an online search showed these are available.
For many, the process of sitting down to write a letter or card, address it, then post it reflects an old-fashioned kind of caring that can travel far and simulate a hug. True, it's not exactly the same, but mail is a powerful link that connects people and communities separated now where contact and travel are not possible.
Personal correspondence isn't just a form of communication, but often people to say more in a format where they can share things they can't in a text or email.
Many have remarked about the “lost art of letter writing” even back to the ancient world when the Roman statesman Cicero complained that no one wrote letters anymore. A frequent and well-worn excuse, people have given for not writing letters is, “I don’t have time.”
That's one thing a great many of us have had time for in recent months. Think of a letter as a way to express not only how you feel not only about the current pandemic crisis, but about daily life other things too. A personal note can raise someone's spirits, and remind them they're being thought about. Another benefit is that unlike a social media post, it won't ensnare you in a backlash of online comments and possible reproach.
In mid-March, AN Post, Ireland’s national service, announced it was giving every household 2 free postcards to write personal messages to post to family and friends across the country encouraging them to stay in touch as people became socially isolated. Suggestions from the CEO of An Post: Write to your grandparents or older relatives and friends who are self-isolating; write to someone who is living alone or could do with a boost.
The post service created 5 million postcards for the campaign and delivered them to 1.8 million households countrywide. Extra sets were available for pickup at local post offices. Despite a search, I didn't find online statistics on the success (or not) of this campaign.
In SD, 11-year Emerson Weber admitted to a serious letter writing habit of regularly exchanging letters with friends, decorating envelopes with art. During the pandemic, she wrote to her local postman: I wanted to thank you for taking my letters and delivering them, you are very important...I make people happy with my letters, but you do too.”
The postman showed the letter to a supervisor, who wrote to thank Emerson and shared the story in a regional USPS newsletter. Later, two boxes of letters were delivered to Emerson from mail workers countrywide who said, They were told me about their families, where they work and what their job was in the postal service.
An NPR reporter after finding 10 leftover holiday stamps tweeted: Today I am going to write letters to send through the post ... Direct message me your snail mail address if you want a random letter. But, I only have 10 stamps.
Quickly, those 10 stamps ran out. She restocked and, when finished sending a paper letter to anyone requesting one, had written 50 letters addressed to almost every state. When writing, people mentioned hobbies, kids, pets, and told how they're spending their time. Most asked if it was too late to request a letter; some requests were from friends as well.
The reporter said that many letter writers included hopes for what will come after this crisis, and that the slower pace and attention paid to each other will continue.
Are you a letter ✉️ writer — have you been sending more in recent months?
As for myself, letter writing plus sending cards, letters, notes and holiday cards isn't a new thing. Years ago, I had numerous pen pals, all living outside the US — Malaysia, the Netherlands, France, UK, Turkey, Ireland. This was during my high school days when letters were written longhand and posted. There wasn't another way to correspond; postal costs were significantly less too (sigh). While I'm no longer in contact with those early pen pals, I still enjoy regular snail-mail correspondence with several people in the states, UK and Canada, including fellow bloggers.
If you're interested in exchanging some snail-mail correspondence, contact me at my blog email.
Now my second post topic — Reading 📖 which I've been doing with borrows of e-books from the local library. While a printed book is wonderful, the building was shutdown from March to early July, but the online catalog was available. Curbside pickup of printed books, magazines, movies, and other items were also available as well. Since reopening, there are so many restrictions that I've continued reading e-books. It's easier to search online as users can't browse book stacks now.
Since January, my book total has climbed to about 35 book, which includes a couple that were started but unfinished. Favorites have included a number of historical fiction works.
The Fallen Architect, The Paris Architect, and House of Thieves (Charles Belfoure) are fiction novels written by an architect specializing in historic preservation.
Two historical fiction novels by Heather Terrell who writes as Marie Benedict: The Only Woman in the Room is about Hedy Lamaar, who was not only a beautiful actress, but also an inventor and scientist. She was one of the most beautiful women ever to appear on the silver screen, and also designed a secret weapon against Nazi Germany. Lamaar also developed a radio communication device later used by the US Navy. This story provides an insight into a woman who not only possessed great beauty, but a great intellect too. Her contributions are in use today.
Carnegie's Maid is a fictional story about how a housemaid could have spurred Andrew Carnegie's transformation from industrialist to philanthropist. Clara Kelly is an immigrant housekeeper who arrives in Pittsburgh and ends up serving the Carnegie's one of the city’s most famous families. The storyline is fiction and deals with an unexpected romance, immigrants, and the line between servants and the upper class.
The Last Days of Night (Graham Moore) is historical fiction about the feud between Thomas Edison and George Westinghouse in the late 1800s and the battle to electrify America; one in which Nikola Tesla was also involved. The storyline includes many fascinating real-life characters even though it's a work of fiction. The battle between the two inventors and innovators was a very interesting read. (Author Moore is also the Academy award screenwriter of The Imitation Game.)
The Nickel Boys (Colson Whitehead) is a Pulitzer Prize winning novel based on the real story of the a state-run Florida reform school that was a house-of-horrors during its 111 years in operation. This was on my e-book wish list for a while. When it became available I downloaded and read it within a day. It was a heartbreaking story of abuse and death. (Whitehead's Pulitzer Prize award made him the fourth writer in history to have won the prize for fiction twice.)
The Splendid and the Vile (Erik Larson) presents an intimate chronicle of Prime Minister Winston Churchill and London during the Blitz. Other Larson favorites I've read include The Devil in the White City, Dead Wake, and Thunderstruck. Larson's books are based on historical events and, while lengthy, were well worth the read. If you enjoy a narrative based on actual historical events, then Larson might be an author for you to check out.
Sold on a Monday (Kristina McMorris) is about the effects on children of the Depression. It was inspired by an actual newspaper photograph of a 1931 sign about children for sale on a farmhouse porch. I also enjoyed The Edge of Lost by McMorris, a fictional tale of immigrants and second chances. I plan to read future books by McMorris.
Where the Crawdads Sing (Delia Owens) is a 2018 novel which has sold more print copies in 2019 than any other fiction or non-fiction title. The debut novel by Owens, a wildlife and nature writer, follows two timelines that intertwine; one is the life and adventures of Kya, a girl who grows up in an isolated NC marsh. The second is about the death of popular Chase Andrews. The story is about a young girl's coming-of-age, a murder mystery and celebration of nature and coastal life. Once started, I found it a compulsive read.
Lincoln in the Bardo (George Saunders) took some time to get into, but was worth the read. The novel takes place during and after the death of Abraham Lincoln's son William "Willie" Wallace Lincoln and deals with the president's grief at his loss. The bulk of the novel, which takes place over the course of a single evening, is set in the bardo, an intermediate space between life and rebirth. The novel was said to have been inspired by a story that Saunders heard about how Lincoln visited his son's crypt on several occasions to hold the body, a story that seems to have been verified by newspaper accounts at the time. I was tempted to not finish, but glad to have done so.
The previous books have not been part of a series. These recent reads are the first 3 of what's now a 12-book series a by UK author: The Crossing Places, The Janus Stone, The House at Sea's End. Domenica de Rosa writes as Elly Griffiths in this series of crime novels set in England’s Norfolk County and featuring forensic archaeologist Ruth Galloway. It's mystery with a bit of history too. Thanks to fellow blogger Barbara (Coastal Ripples) who started me on this series and now there's 9 more to complete. Hopefully, I'll get them done before a 13th is released.
Along with books I really enjoyed, here's two that I completely disliked despite their generally well-received reviews. These were best sellers, enjoyed by many, just not me.
Normal People (Sally Rooney) became a best seller in the U.S.The novel is about the complex friendship and relationship between two teenagers, Connell and Marianne, who both attend the same secondary school in County Sligo and Trinity College Dublin. He's popular, she's not but then the tables turn years later. I confess to not finishing. Life is too short to continue reading a book in which the main characters become tiresome as these did for me.
Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine (Gail Honeyman) focuses on a 29-year-old woman, a social misfit with a traumatic past who becomes enamored with a singer she thinks she's destined to be with and spend her weekends drinking vodka. It deals with multiple themes including isolation, loneliness, trauma and loneliness, and depicts Eleanor's transformation journey. I did finish, but for me Eleanor was not fine at the end.
Have you been reading more? If so, feel free to comment with recommendations too. And, do include those you regret having started as well!
Another way we've been self-isolating is binge-watching . . . details in a future post.