Remember when we used to write paper letters to each other? How were they different from emails? We set up the Canadian writer Claudia Dey and the American writer Stacey Levine (who certainly email as much as the rest of us) in a paper-correspondence, and we are posting their letters on The Believer Logger, a few days after the letters are received by their intendeds in the mail. This is the fourth letter in the series. Here is the third, from Claudia to Stacey.
Your many-faceted letter. Where to begin. Your mother who loves crime “of any kind.” (!) (Tell me more about her!) Your fingerprints squeezed onto your son’s palm. SWAT team members hauling metal pieces. I had no idea there were SWAT teams in Canada but I don’t get out much. Paramilitary—that’s so USA. I guess the concept spread north amidst excitement.
Aloof is ‘cool’ you say and yeah it’s true. What is it with people making no facial expressions and that is supposed to be attractive? I’m glad you were not-cool enough to say that you like our protra-aacted date. Pay no attention to the people on TV: It’s better to be warm than cool. One philosopher thought that our culture’s premium on cool and dead-ish is because it’s easier to be aloof than to have desire. And I suppose because desire can be crushed into disappointment. And that having desire means that one has left the womb and is standing out there in life, raw. Oh yeah I like this date too.
On to your questions. I’m from Missouri, USA, so I’ve ridden several horses. For a short time I rode a horse named Caramel. She was so pretty. And later, when I was older, I did wear a uniform. It was not monogrammed. Once upon a time I was a kind of live-in governess for a millionaire family’s 3-year-old child in Fort Lauderdale. This really sounds not-true, but I’m fairly sure it is. I was required to wear a polyester white home-care uniform and white nurse shoes. While on the job and wearing that uniform I had to troop around Ft. Lauderdale with the little girl. The family lived in an extremely ostentatious house with an elevator. I lived there too in a little room in a wing off to the side of the house near the laundry room. The house Doberman was trained to attack at the throat of any person who displayed anger. Yipes. I could go on about this. One of the house maids was labile and cried at night; she implored me to pray for the family’s kindness to me. On one day off I had a date with a guy I barely knew, George, who owned a business of selling cardboard boxes to other businesses. He had sold boxes in quantity to my employer. Sitting on a sofa, George was trembling very hard looking at the window but it was difficult to understand why. It might’ve been because of the whole box business thing.
When I quit the job and went back to the University of Missouri, I wrote my essay in English class about my experiences at the weird job. George had a scant blonde mustache.
Now it’s July 3 so I had to wear a winter jacket when going out last night to a little poetry reading with my friends. Good old Seattle. 54 degrees F. I never found out what the honking sound was. It was probably a man with a little bulb-driven horn. Do not worry—I must’ve been baiting you—it’s pretty darned safe to go into the yard here at night. All is well.
Since I wrote to you last I took a trip to Brooklyn for a reading at the bookstore Unnameable Books. It was swell. Brooklyn’s so beautiful. My cousin there recommended I read the book The Gathering Forces of Light UFOs and Their Spiritual Mission. Author: Creme. Yeah!
Writers who’re given some recognition are better writers I think. Do you think that. Literary art in the US is still viewed in many segments of the culture as insane or at least as an immature shirking of responsibility. This was very strong during Bush’s presidency. Obama has improved the situation somewhat. The internet and ebooks have improved it somewhat. Do you find the same root antipathy in Canada?
The Terrence Davies movie Distant Voices was great. It’s not a cool film—just the opposite, extremely emotional. It’s passionate about memory.
At the closing of your letter you traced the outline of a hand—yours or someone’s who is close to you. You colored in the spots of the finger-nails with silvery-blue pencil. It is the same size as my hand.
Image source: Ram Katzir, “Tracing Future,” (2005)