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News / Life / Clark County Life

Check It Out: Handwritten correspondence brings special connection

By Jan Johnston
Published: September 30, 2023, 6:15am

Do people still send postcards?

When I was in junior high and high school, I had a couple of friends who traveled a lot, and they always sent me postcards from whatever exotic locale they were visiting. I thought this was very cool, receiving correspondence from another country, feeling — if only for a moment — that I was sitting next to my friend sharing a piece of news. But now with smart devices and texting, I wonder: Is a postcard still meaningful?

Postcards are on my mind because the first week of October is International Postcard Week. If you search for “postcards” in the library’s catalog, the results will bring back an eclectic mix of titles. Fiction includes titles from authors Annie Proulx (“Postcards”), Carrie Fisher (“Postcards from the Edge”), Laura Childs (“Postcards from the Dead”) and Trisha R. Thomas (“Postcards from Venus.”) Multiple nonfiction titles appear, but they aren’t necessarily about postcards. Even a children’s picture book pops up. “Love, Agnes: Postcards from an Octopus” by Irene Latham is about a giant Pacific octopus named Agnes who sends postcards to creatures above and below the sea. Sweet.

What interests me most about International Postcard Week is the physical act of sending correspondence through the mail. Don’t get me wrong. I am fully involved with electronic messaging. How I managed life before smart phones is baffling (and makes me feel pretty darn old, by the way). However, I do remember receiving handwritten letters (and postcards!) from family and friends, and as connected as I am with smart devices, a letter in my hand is much more powerful than an emoji-filled text.

This is why this week’s reading list focuses on handwritten correspondence from Helene Hanff, Julia Child, Abigail Adams, John le Carre and Ralph Ellison.

If a book could send me a postcard, it might go something like this: “Dear Reader, I hope you’re doing well and enjoying my story! Scenes? Check! Characters? Check! Reading is such an adventure! All the best, Your Book.”

  • “84, Caring Cross Road” by Helene Hanff.
  • “As Always, Julia: The Letters of Julia Child and Avis DeVoto: Food, Friendship, and the Making of a Masterpiece” by Julia Child.
  • “Letters” by Abigail Adams.
  • “A Private Spy: The Letters of John le Carre” by John le Carre.
  • “The Selected Letters of Ralph Ellison” by Ralph Ellison