Tuesday, November 22, 2011
Ten Form Letters I'd Rather Not Send, If You'd Rather Not Receive
About that invitation to correspond:
(or Approachably Reclusive Part II: THE NEXT DAY)
Usually if you write, and say something interesting, I'll write back, even if it's just a quick thank you.
If you say something not-interesting, for many years I have had a few form letters always ready to go, which I use in cases where it is obvious to me that no thought or effort should be wasted on my response. Somehow copying and pasting those doesn't seem to require nearly as much effort as admiring someone's photos of their cats in person.
To save us all time, I guess, if you suspect that what you are about to send will be eligible to receive one of these form letters, just skip sending in the first place. (There are doubtless countless blogs where they will welcome you with open arms, particularly if they have mastered aikido).
The ten form letters I have sent out most often in my working life could be summarized as:
1. My, how cleverly you are able to paste together Republican talking points.
2. Actually you like some words I wrote a long time ago, and not only am I not your soul mate, you would perceive this instantly if you met me, because the person you seem to be writing to doesn't resemble the person sitting here reading your note. Thank you for liking my words, I hope I will write other things that please you in the future, and no, let's not meet.
3. Yes, it is my job to try to depict people like yourself in my stories, and I'm sorry that I didn't do it to your liking, and will take what I understand from your letter into account and try to do better next time around. You are not only entitled to your anger, but I am going to ask a big favor of you: in all seriousness, please be sure to denounce my work publicly. If I am misleading other people about your kind of people, they need to be told, and I have already demonstrated I'm not the one to tell them. It is, of course, possible that we are both wrong, in which case your people and the general public deserve a chance to decide that, and to decide, they need to hear both of us. My take is already out there; please put yours up somewhere. If by any chance you are looking for a retraction, however, I don't usually do that. I draw what I see and if I see something different later, I draw that then.
4. I don't know or understand a thing about your life but you already are writing about it very well and I can tell it's interesting. You don't need a co-author, you need to sit down and write that.*
5. Thank you for urging me to say more of what I am already saying, but please, staying real, let us not make any point of my courage here: I'm in a historically privileged group of people living in a milieu with a tradition of individual rights. Therefore I can state almost any opinion I am likely to have, without much of anything to fear, and where there is no rational fear, there is no courage. Rather than congratulate me on whatever you thought it was dangerous to say, take charge and work through that danger yourself. Fear breeds fear, and if you think it takes nerve or guts to say what I've said, then if it is at all possible for you, please say it in public yourself, and experience – or make, if necessary – your own freedom first hand. Courage also breeds courage, but you have to start with some of your own.
6. You have mistaken my character's opinions for mine. I make people up; just as they are not all me physically, and a good thing too for the sake of the sex scenes, they are not all me politically, spiritually, esthetically, or socially. Thanks for letting me know I drew a character well enough for you to mistake him/her for a real person that you detest. If you were to meet me you would in all likelihood detest me for some reason entirely different from the one you think you do.
7. My, how cleverly you are able to paste together Democratic talking points.
8. Get help, for everyone's sake. No joke. Your letter is a symptom, but I'm not a doctor.
9. I do, in fact, have a religious faith, which I take seriously, and which I believe to be a better approximation to the truth than what you have sent me; it is one of my faith's tenets that God does not damn anyone, which is why I will not attempt to rescue you from the peril you are not in, let alone accept that anchor you have tossed me in your mistaken belief that it is a life preserver. God, I believe, does condemn certain ways of occupying oneself – businesses, we might call them, in the old sense of "what people stay busy with," such as concocting and distributing malice, distrust, and anger – so I trust it will be clear when I say God bless you for your concern, and my spiritual welfare is none of your God-damned business.
10. You have not misunderstood me. I do think exactly what you object to. You will not stop me from saying it merely by telling me you don't like it.
*an observation for which I have no explanation: the letters I get from people who want me to help turn their interesting experiences into a book are inevitably well-written and tightly focused on the interesting parts; at a guess, this is because finding what's really of interest in your own life is the hard part, and once that's done it's just a matter of setting it down.