Anne Applebaum discusses the lost art of letter writing in the digital age.

Real-time discussions with Slate writers.
Aug. 3 2007 1:16 PM

Love Letters?

Anne Applebaum takes readers' questions about written correspondence in the digital age.

Slate columnist Anne Applebuam was online at Washingtonpost.com on Friday, Aug. 3, to discuss Hillary Clinton's college correspondence and the lost art of letter writing. An unedited transcript of the chat follows.

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Anne Applebaum: Yes, I'm sure that's true. But the medium does affect how one writes, or at least that's what I find. Which has always been true: Surely the change from laboriously copied, hand-written, illuminated manuscripts to the printing press changed the kinds of books that people wrote and read too.

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Maryland: I still have "love letters" from high school and college beaus in the pre-Internet days, but the love of my life and I never "mailed" letters. No one prints out an e-mail to treasure forever after.

Anne Applebaum: No. But they're probably all in a Google storage tank somewhere, so be careful...

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Raleigh, N.C.: Anne, I have seen so many wonderful stationery stores pop up—around here and in other cities (there's a great one in Georgetown)—how do these stay afloat? Or maybe they don't? Or maybe people love to buy stationery (and the idea and nostalgia of letter-writing) and then maybe it just sits, never to be used?

Anne Applebaum: I love buying stationery and then it sits, never to be used...

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Washington: This reminds me of a friend who is a sculptor. He used to send postcards that he had made by cutting the text into thin steel with a gas torch, or some other material and method. For him, I think, it was as much about testing the Post Office—but now you could see it as a statement about how easy and impermanent e-mail is.

Anne Applebaum: Yes—though how far away can we be from email art? If it's not already being done, that is.

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Anne Applebaum: Goodbye all—and thanks for taking a few minutes to focus on the ancient, arcane, and definitely not twenty-first century subject of letter-writing. AA