Marcia Karp wrote:
> I have been thinking about Nancy's statement "no one even knows each other
> except as a text." This is, to me, a challenge to all writing. It is one I
> have to disagree with. For instance, people, especially in the past, have come
> to know each other deeply and intimately when their only contact is letter
The comparison probably does not hold. There may have been cases in the
pass of letter writers who did not correspond to any actual person, but
they must have been few and far between. On most maillists it is not
only possible but probable (and on many certain) that some of the
posters do not exist. Moreover, there is no way of knowing for sure
whether posters John Doe of Vancouver, B.C. and Mary Roe of Perth,
Australia are not in physical body both Clementine Dolorosa of Peru,
Indiana. This is less likely on academic lists (at least in the cases of
those whose mail domain is "edu" or who indicate a faculty position.
That is easily checkable.
And most books contain a paragraph on the back flap, most articles a
note, giving minimal information on the body behind the words. Those in
the past whose relationship has been strictly through letters usually, I
would guess, had mutual acquaintances that could affirm their existence.
Yet another difference (and probably crucial to the present concern) is
the quickness with which listserve posts may be produced and delivered
-- delivered not to a single person but in view (potentially) of the
entire world. (I don't know about others, but though I was never an
extremely fast typist, I have come to type on a computer keyboard with
extraordinary speed. And of e-mails, unlike articles, are almost always
first drafts, with only marginal care being given to protect against
omitted words or incomplete sentences of one sort or another.
And yet when they arrive at the subscribers' computer screens, they
possess all the permanence of print, and with less control by the writer
over their tone. (How many articles are as short as this post, even
though it is longer than most I write.) It is difficult to establish
clear tone without some length.
So I think Nancy's claim not only holds, but that the _persona_ revealed
in e-mail is rather more skeletal than that revealed in most writing.
> As for literature, I'm not convinced it is a medium through which
> readers know, or should try to know, their authors. Other ideas?
Probably, with qualification, true. But we aren't writing Odes here, are
P.S. Modern writers (by which I mean Milton and later) do tend to force
the reader to constantly react to what is being said, whether in
agreement or disagreement, with satisfaction or rage. Consider the most
famous opening sentence in English literature, "It is a truth
universally acknowledged, that . . . ." The main clause is not about
single men and potential husbands, it is about _YOU_, the reader, and
you immediately have to decide the sentence's truth, for unless you
agree with the dependent clause, the main clause is false and the author
is a liar -- or something complicated.
> Ken Armstrong wrote: