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Long before electronic mail became a pillar of our society, there existed a richer, more intimate form of communication: The letter. And while some of you may mock the postal system and the art of letter writing, denouncing it as nothing more than "snail mail," you certainly can't deny the excitement of going to the mailbox, discovering a letter and tearing open the envelope with breathless anticipation.
The creators of the Web site Open Letters (www.openletters.net) understand this and have created a space designed to showcase personal letters. It's an interesting twist of irony if you consider that Open Letters is an online venture which promotes the medium it may ultimately destroy. But to the site's credit, it effectively captures and celebrates the intimacy of personal letters within what is widely considered one of the most anonymous places of all the Internet.
The site, which published letters from June 2000 to January 2001, has over 100 letters, divided into more than a dozen different categories, including politics, family, love and the arts. Once inside a particular category, you can select a letter and read it in its entirety.
At first, you may feel like a nosy neighbour by reading someone else's mail. But that feeling is soon minimized because the authors of the letters have posted them and are therefore inviting the outside world into the interior of their own worlds. On this level, the letters could almost be seen as pieces of creative writing and as writing goes, many are quite well written.
In one letter, simply addressed to "Bill," a woman named Jessica writes: "I died with Mink that nite [sic], choking on those heroin sobs, both of us snivelling over our poor lost families."
Other letters on the site deal with subjects like fatherlessness, childhood and things left unsaid. In this sense, the writing and posting of the letters presents itself as mildly therapeutic in that writers are able to record those things they have difficulty saying.
The site's only flaw is its starkness. Although it may be a crucial element of the overall design, it conveys a stoicism inconsistent with the intimate nature of the texts found within.
At any rate, I hope this letter finds you all well and perhaps, if you get a chance in your hectic lives, you'll be able to take a moment and drop us a line.