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Monday, September 03, 2007

Immodest Proposal

I think I remember, which is to say I almost certainly misremember or have just invented, an eccentric English lord who wanted to leave his body to Battersea Dogs’ Home for pet food. Odd choice though it sounds for self-disposal, it has at least some plus points I can think of in comparison to leaving one’s remains to a university archive.

I’m put in mind of this by Heather Clark’s The Ulster Renaissance: Poetry in Belfast 1962-1972, which draws extensively on the Emory archive in Georgia. From it we learn, at length, just how annoyed A was in his letters to B about what C had said about him to D, and much more in that vein. One particular prize exhibit is a judiciously excerpted long letter written by Michael Longley to Marie Heaney but never sent.

AE defined a literary movement as a small number of people living in the same town who cordially hated one another. Maybe literary history is a reverse alchemical procedure for turning gold back into the base metal of tittle-tattle.

I think it was Eliot who said what a nice feeling it gave him when hed written a letter to… pop it straight in the fire. I enjoy reading dead people’s letters as much as anyone else, but in a spirit of green abnegation don’t think we the living need add anything to that particular compost heap. Writers: burn your letters, delete your emails, and make your peace with the fact that one day your blogs will be hijacked by online gambling or Russian porn sites. Don’t live long enough to need the money to retire on. Let the feeders on entrails go without breakfast. Leave no trace.

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