Sunday, September 06, 2015

Wallace Fowlie and the Art of Letter Writing

Professor Wallace Fowlie (1908-1998) of Duke University was in his eighties when we corresponded. I first met him right after a lecture he gave that showed the connections between French poet Arthur Rimbaud and Jim Morrison: we struck up a brief conversation that led to later ones. These chats were supplemented by letters when either of us was traveling or otherwise hunkered down with work.

Wallace's letters, after a first brief introductory note, were almost invariably of an ideal length -- two pages. They were sometimes typed on his Olivetti but usually written with a pen.  What we discussed in epistles --as in person -- ranged from writing, reading, teaching, French literature, music, movies and general matters pertaining to art. I learned much from him. What I provided in return was an enthusiastic listener-reader plus some fresh insight into contemporary music.
Wallace Fowlie is a satisfying example of what can result from actively respecting and engaging worldly people -- particularly ones who happen to be over the age of 65. 

Seek and ye shall find, and listen well when you do, whether you meet once or a hundred times. Cherish, treasure and record for posterity -- my motto.

An example of one of Professor Fowlie's letters from our correspondence can be found here.

In 2015 and beyond, there's nothing to prevent letter-writing, especially when the medium is the message, as Marshall McLuhan put it. Letter writing is prevented only because of "a need for speed" cultivated by the disputive tendencies of modern communications; that is to say, because of 21st century impatience and the desire for instant, even if only ephemeral, gratification. 

As Gore Vidal used to quip from the Ancients, "life is short, but the art is long."

I'm open to new correspondence. If anyone would like to write, I'll send you my mailing address. Email me, if you wish, at:
And tally-ho!

Today's Rune: Strength.   


t said...

the art of comment writing

Charles Gramlich said...

I've enjoyed very much over the years reading the correspondence of writers such as Lovecraft and Robert E. Howard. it's a great source of information