Early Letters of Harvey Milk

San Francisco celebrated Pride in big style this past weekend, a fitting time to pay tribute to the late gay activist and internationally famous icon, Harvey Milk, with a look at letters from his early, pre-political life. Harvey Milk was born in New York in 1930, nearly 40 years before Stonewall and 42 years before his move to San Francisco that changed the course of history. Through his letters, written 1956–1962 to his good friend, Susan Davis Alch, a picture emerges of a young man preoccupied with universal concerns: love, work, money (mostly, lack of), where…

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Celebrating the Joys of Letter Writing

Books to Read Signed, Sealed, Delivered by Nina Sankovitch When Nina Sankovitch and her husband went house hunting “years ago,” they find a run-down house on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, built in 1888, but unoccupied for the past15 years. The house includes some old, dusty furniture, rotting floors and obsolete plumbing and electrical systems, but somehow, it is just right for them. Despite escalating real estate values, their offer is accepted, despite better offers that come in after their bid. Thus begins the saga of Signed, Sealed, Delivered: Celebrating the Joys of Letter Writing (not…

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Letters We Love to Receive

In the words of the great P.D. James, 93-year old doyenne of English crime fiction, “No literary form is more revealing, more spontaneous or more individual than a letter.” But what distinguishes some letters from others, those letters that are pure pleasure to read, opened with eager anticipation? The letters that are read many times over, and then saved, in a drawer or file, box or basket? To some extent, the answer lies with the recipient’s relationship with the sender. Letters from a spouse, child, beloved aunt, cousin, grandmother, lover, close friend, are surely the ones…

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The Overdue Letter

A letter, especially one that is meaningful to both the sender and the receiver, may be fraught with emotion. Letters can convey multiple emotions, including love, regret, despair, joy and anger. Many of us have experienced the satisfaction of putting our angry feelings into writing. This can be a good device for cooling off and collecting oneself, whether the letter is actually sent or not. A recent opinion piece in The New York Times, penned by Maria Konnikova, The Lost Art of the Unsent Angry Letter, received a strong response from readers, with many sharing their own…

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The Fountain Pen

For many years, I wrote with a fountain pen. Unlike some of my friends, who have used the same pen for 20 – 30 years, none that I have owned was special or memorable enough to be deemed irreplaceable. Eventually, the last of my fountain pens began to leak, hastening its reunion with its brethren in the landfill. I turned to what soon became my new favorite, a disposable pen that I first discovered in Paris, made by an American company, which I now buy by the dozen. That is, until recently. My friend Deborah and…

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Sometimes It Is Difficult to Love the Post Office

  Last week was a great week for personal mail. Each day my mailbox revealed a new treasure, including an oversized post card from Sandra, two beautiful Mother’s Day cards (Happy belated Mother’s Day, everyone!) with handwritten notes from our daughters – thank you, ladies, for those amazing messages! – two additional personal notes from Nancy and Jane, and an article about social calling cards from Joan. Postmarks on the letters included Washington, D.C., Brooklyn, New York, Honolulu, Hawaii, and my home city, San Francisco. How much better can things get than receiving six letters and…

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Your Handwriting/Your Signature – Do They Matter?

In Daphne du Maurier’s 1938 gothic novel, Rebecca, memorialized by Alfred Hitchcock’s 1940 film of the same title, the shy young bride of Maxim de Winter finds herself out of her depth in her new husband’s ancestral home, Manderly, overseen by the creepy Mrs. Danvers. The lingering presence of Maxim’s dead first wife not only intimidates her, but reminds her of her own seeming inferiority. First, it is an inscription in a book, “written in a curious, slanting hand…the tall and sloping R dwarfing the other letters.” Mrs. de Winter responds, “I noticed for the first…

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Letters

From Rob, New York City - Marcia, two aspects related to your blog come to mind: one is the issue of technology transforming necessities to luxuries, sometimes for the better. A poor example might be horses changing from messy requirements for transportation to luxuries for recreation. A current example is the book, morphing from the only way for substantial bodies of content to be stored, transported, and retrieved, to a bulky, unsearchable, environmentally wasteful luxury item for those who prefer the heft and balance of a physical book (the issue of whether the book--print or digital--is an…

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Stamps: What’s Not to Like?

The price of stamps went up by three cents on January 26, from 46 cents to 49 cents. That’s the bad news. The good news, however, is that those Forever stamps you purchased last year or before are still good – and they should be good, in fact, “forever.” But, before you use up all of those old stamps, consider this. If you hold on to them, they will become – no, not more valuable, but - vintage! That flower or landscape or lighthouse you bought last year because you liked the design will one day…

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Letters 4.23 – 4.28.14

Dear Correspondents, It has been incredibly satisfying to receive such a strong response to last week’s launch of socialcorrespondence.com. It seems that many of us are nostalgic for the mail of the old days, but still prefer to conduct our social correspondence by e-mail or social media, and limit our snail mail offerings to thank you, sympathy and sometimes birthday notes. Perhaps if we all committed ourselves to writing one short letter a week, hand written and sent through the mail, we would regain that sense of satisfaction upon hearing the arrival of the postal carrier…

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