18 January 2005

1. Definitions, an introduction.

epistle ...A letter, esp. one of a literary, formal, or public nature....
epistolary ... 1 Of or pertaining to (the writing of) epistles or letters.... 2 In the form of a letter or letters; contained in or conducted by letters.
epistolography n. letter-writing
from The New Shorter Oxford English Dictionary. Lesley Brown, ed. Oxford, England: Clarendon (Oxford University) Press, copyright 1993 Oxford University Press.
Dear Reader,

Welcome to my letter-writing project, the initial goal of which is to write and publish letters that are impossible for me to send. I like writing letters, but I often never finish them, which makes it hard to get them in the mail. Sometimes I find myself composing letters to inanimate objects, or fictional characters, or abstract ideas, most of whom can't read. But enough excuses! Regardless of the many reasons I might not be able to send a letter, I hate to let that stop me from writing. So my hope for this project is that having a place to post those unaddressable letters (puns intended) will free me to write them.

Think of these letters as works in progress; I'm likely to rewrite anything I post a few times even before I publish it here, but likewise nothing I post here is by any means final. Part of the point of writing this stuff down is it gets me thinking about what I might have missed, other thoughts to include in my letters.

Another nice aspect of this project is that many, in fact most, of the letters I will be posting here are letters to which I do not expect to receive replies. If I can't send a letter, it's unlikely to reach its addressee, for one thing. For another, abstractions are unlikely to receive, much less respond to, my messages, and I'm fine with that. These letters are intended to be one-sided, even if that somewhat defeats the purpose of framing them as correspondence. (A fancy rhetorical name for this trick is "apostrophe", but I've already cluttered this introduction with enough dictionary definitions.) The one exception to the unsent/unsendable rule is, of course, this introductory letter, because it's addressed to anyone who reads it. As such, it is guaranteed to reach its intended audience.

On that hopeful note, on with the futility of the letters I can't send.