Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Men of Letters

I recently finished reading the Millenium Trilogy by the late Swedish author Stieg Larsson (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, The Girl Who Played with Fire, and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest) and strongly recommend them ... Lisbeth Salander (The Girl) is one of the most interesting and enjoyable characters I've run across in a long time. I'm now re-reading one of my all-time favorite books: The Groucho Letters: Letters From and To Groucho Marx.

Groucho Marx, the leader of the famous vaudeville, radio, and movie team The Marx Brothers, was not only a very funny performer, but a very literate and funny person. The Groucho Letters contains a wide range of letters from Groucho to his many friends and admirers, as well as letters written to him, and is guaranteed to bring a smile to your lips and a laugh to your heart, no matter how bad the day. Reading this book reminds me of why I enjoy writing (and receiving) letters ... and, sadly, why writing letters is a dying art in this era of e-mail, emoticons, Twitter, and text messaging.

I have enjoyed an occasional exchange of letters with some of you who responded to my original offer of a personal handwritten letter made two years ago. My second offer elicited only a single request for a letter: said letter is still owed to my old friend Ed, who waits patiently by his mailbox with his feet taking root and pachysandra curling around his aging legs.

But I digress. Here are a few examples of the sort of wonderful wit from the pages of The Groucho Letters ...

"I would have answered your letter sooner, but you didn't write one." (Goodman Ace to Groucho)

"I have a little matter to discuss with my fans in the internal revenue office. It seems they would like my autograph - on a small check."

In response to Groucho's complaint that he was receiving too much junk mail (and this was in 1951) and not enough fan mail, Fred Allen wrote, "If you are going to eliminate mail you cannot hope to do it through closing up the post office and the postal department. Without the post office, politicians would have no places to put their brothers-in-law. You can only stop this avalanche of fan mail through lowering your standards and going after the illiterate crowd."

An 11-year old autograph seeker wrote that Groucho's brother Gummo told her father that if she wrote to Groucho he would happily send her an autograph. Groucho wrote, "Confidentially, this Gummo comes from a long line of Romanian Gypsies; he was deposited at our doorstep at the age of fifty, and there's nothing we can do about it. Here is the autograph. I would send you a lock of my hair, but it's at the barbershop getting washed."

For a good time, read The Groucho Letters. And then sit down and write a letter to ol' Bilbo. Yes, Mike, I'm talking to you.

And don't give up, Ed ... you will get your letter.

Have a good day. Write to someone. I would be a good choice. More thoughts tomorrow.


P.S. - If you would like to receive a personal, handwritten letter, you too can join Ed in his hopeful vigil at the mailbox by sending your snail mail address to me: bilbo_the_blogger (at) yahoo (dot) com. I will not share your address, and you'll get your letter. Eventually.



The Mistress of the Dark said...

If my TBR pile would just shrink a little bit, I would love to read "The Girl" books. I've heard wonderful things about them from everyone who has read them.

Jean-Luc Picard said...

You've beat me to it. I'm about a third of the wat through the last one (Hornet's Nest)

Mike said...

I acutally have a lot more time to do something like that now. It's moved up on my to do list.

GreenCanary said...

Bilbo, my friend! I want a realio, trulio handwritten letter! And I will write you one!

P.S. I will say it again: JEAN-LUC PICARD READS YOUR BLOG! I love captains of starships. And bald men.

P.P.S. My word verification is a dirty word in Spanish *snicker*