12 December 2016

3-cent stamps

"Not that [Emily Dickinson] intended her poems to go unread -- she often sent them in letters to friends, sometimes with other enclosures: dried flowers, a three-cent stamp, a dead cricket. She also tried a form of self-publishing: from around 1858 until roughly 1864, she gathered her poems into forty handmade books, known as 'fascicles,' by folding single sheets of blank paper in half to form four consecutive pages, which she then wrote on and later, bound, one folded sheet on another, with red-and-white thread strung through crudely punched holes." (from "Out of print: the scrap poetry of Emily Dickinson," by Dan Chiasson, in The New Yorker, December 5, 2016, page 77)

What would Emily Dickinson have done if Blurb had been available? How long has it been since I thought of fascicles? The incidental drawings in this issue of The New Yorker include a tangle of red lines, rather like thread. And three-cent stamps? The second time they've come up today.

"I won't forget what happened when your Aunt Ida tried to help. It took me days to undo what she'd done! And some things I could never undo. For instance, she threw away an entire sheet of postage stamps; three-cent postage stamps. I wasn't aware of it at the time because I was out of the room, fixing her a snack. That's how it is when people try to help; they need snacks and cups of tea, and before you know it you've gone to more trouble than if they'd stayed at home." (from Back When We Were Grownups by Anne Tyler, Ballantine Books, 2002, page 56)

Should Rebecca's mother have relaxed and let Aunt Ida help with sorting things so she could get on with her life? The theme of Back When We Were Grownups is wondering how you got into the life you're in and what would have happened if you'd made different decisions at critical points. So I'm up at the library reading The New Yorker and blogging rather than sorting things at the house so I can get on with my life, or writing Christmas letters/cards or whatever.

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