Dawn Reader

Dawn Reader
from Open Door Coffee Co.; Hudson, OH; Oct. 26, 2016

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Few Things Sadder Than Sunday Email

I don't get much email these days--well, much personal email. Back in the mid-1990s when I first started fussing with email (AOL dial-up!), email, for a while, completely replaced most other forms of communication. My mom was on AOL--my two brothers, too--and we wrote to one another all the time. I also heard from friends and colleagues and others, and it was a grand thing.

Oct 28, 98-June 24, 02
When I was working on my YA biography of Mary Shelley (The Mother of the Monster: The Life and Times of Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley--Link to the book on Amazon), I launched what would become a massive correspondence with the late Dr. Betty Bennett, one of the world's leading authorities on Shelley (she'd edited the three volumes of Shelley's letters and had numerous other MWS publications, as well). In those days I printed out most email, and when I assembled all the Betty Bennett correspondence, it filled a massive notebook of priceless information about MWS and her circle. (I've been using it for a new book I'm working on: Frankenstein Sundae--a book about my ten-year obsession with MWS and her novel.)

But then ... the New Kid on the Block: Texting. I noticed in the last couple of years of my tenure at Western Reserve Academy (I retired in June 2011) that my students (juniors) did not use email very often to communicate with one another. Texts instead. I often sent mass emails to them (reminders, etc.), and I know that many of them either didn't see them at all--or did so days later (sometimes past the point of the email's original relevance). I'm still not much of a texter at all--still. My son and I exchange them now and them--my wife, too. My younger brother. That's about it. I exchange texts, oh, once a week or so?

Meanwhile, my email has become, well, pathetic. As I said, I get virtually no personal emails now. And Sundays are the most pathetic of all. It's now 11:34 a.m. on Sunday, and here's what I see in my Inboxes:

Let's go from top-to-bottom; the first screen is what Gmail calls "Primary" email:

  • from "me"--a photo of the Betty Bennett notebook I sent to myself
  • a confirmation of an Amazon order for Brach's candy (don't ask)
  • an ad from the Nation magazine
  • the word-of-the-day from Dictionary.com
  • a link to today's New York Times
  • my weekly summary from Wordsmith (another of my word-of-the-day sites)
  • the daily junk from the National Council of Teachers of English
In the second Inbox (what Gmail calls "promotions"):
  • ad from Simplehuman--from whom we bought a trashcan for the kitchen--and we order replacement liner bags from them; they let me know how important I am--every single Sunday
  • reminder from the Plain Dealer that today's paper is available
  • a reminder from Books-a-Million that I can go there and get deals
  • a reminder from OfficeMax that I can go there and get deals
  • a 2nd daily reminder from the Plain Dealer
  • a reminder from Kohl's that I can go there and get deals
  • Writer's Almanac--the daily post I really like (I often share their stuff on Facebook)
It won't get any better as they day goes on. Not a single personal message so far today--and I don't really expect any. About the only people I hear from via email are Joyce (who's right upstairs) and my two brothers. My mom, 94, can no longer handle email, so I write snail-mail to her, twice a week. (She can't even answer that anymore.) I occasionally correspond with editors at the Plain Dealer and Kirkus Reviews about a recent submission and other issues. That's about the extent of it.

My father, who died in late November 1999, never did get into email--and certainly not texting or Facebook messaging (which is how I get most personal correspondence now--and not much of that). If the USPS didn't deliver it, he didn't get it. I really do want to keep up with correspondence. I watched my dad sort of retreat inside himself in his last years, and I felt, in a way, he was imprisoned by Old Technology; New Technology had the key--but he just couldn't make himself do it.  I hope my son will never have to say the same of me.

PS--The spell-checker on Blogspot still doesn't recognize "texting." Weird ...

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