Earlier posts touched on letters unwritten or unopened. There is also a whole class of correspondence that is written but never sent. I have done this myself a couple of times, finding the writing of the letter to be a cathartic act, without any need to follow through on the logic of the medium and ensure the addressee becomes the recipient.
Most recently, I wrote a letter I didn’t know I would be able to send, and it was with joy that I felt several days later that its addressee might be available to receive it. It was to my brother as he spent a night ‘between life and death’ after a couple of ‘vascular accidents’ in the heart and brain. The letter, written in the first anguish and horror of possibly losing him at any moment, was my desperate way of trying to reach him through his coma, using a medium that we both love, the hand-written letter.
This quotation is about long letters painstakingly written to a friend who can’t read, and which are never sent. It’s curious that Singer continues to write them even though he never posts them. And that he never posts them even though he regularly goes to the post office to send money and cartoons to the same friend. It is sad that the letters end up being destroyed. Given John Singer’s character, they were probably full of human feeling and observation.
Singer is one of the marvellous fully human characters in Carson McCullers’ sharp and tender anatomy of the human heart and its foibles. See the bestellar review complete with a mosaic of illustrated quotations and metaphors.
I also liked this careful description in the same novel of the process of writing a letter.
Source: Carson McCullers, The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, p. 187
Photo credit: Kaz
The fact that Antonapoulos could not read did not prevent Singer from writing to him. He had always known that his friend was unable to make out the meaning of words on paper, but as the months went by he began to imagine that perhaps he had been mistaken, that perhaps Antonapoulos only kept his knowledge of letters a secret from everyone. Also, it was possible there might be a deaf-mute at the asylum who could read his letters and then explain them to his friend. He thought of several justifications for his letters, for he always felt a great need to write to his friend whenever he was bewildered or sad. Once written, however, these letters were never mailed. He cut out comic strips from the morning and evening papers and sent them to his friend each Sunday. And every month he mailed a postal money order. But the long letters he wrote to Antonapoulos accumulated in his pockets until he would destroy them.