It’s Your Turn to Take Care of Grandma
A mixed mailbag (and a list)
It’s that time again. The only thing that connects these snippets, and the list below, is the fact that I have either bookmarked or returned to them very recently.
Enjoy your weekend, if at all possible.
You have, in common with every child who ever grew up, made minor mistakes—I repeat, minor: but are you also aware that regardless of those small concerns we may have felt from time to time about your development (and all parents feel such concern), you have given us so much more happiness than discontent—in a ratio of, roughly, a million to one—that we shall never be able to reward you adequately for having entered our lives.
We wanted you, took measures to have you, got you—and are forever the winners.
Letter to his 17-year-old daughter, Nikola
10th January 1957
I think that maybe if women and children were in charge we would get somewhere. It is almost impossible to have any faith at all in the adult male these days; he continues to boggle everything as he always has boggled it.
Letter to E. B. White
20th January 1938
(From The Thurber Letters)
Isn’t my handwriting queer? I lost my old one, typing for years; and this one showed up last winter. Odd!
Letter to William Maxwell
26th June 1946
Darling Laura, sweet whiskers, do try to write me better letters. Your last, dated 19 December received today, so eagerly expected, was a bitter disappointment. Do realise that a letter need not be a bald chronicle of events; I know you lead a dull life now, my heart bleeds for it, though I believe you could make it more interesting if you had the will. But that is no reason to make your letters as dull as your life. I simply am not interested in Bridget’s children. Do grasp that.
Letter to his wife, Laura
7th January 1945
(From Letters of Evelyn Waugh)
I have a real physical loathing of people who are morally weak. A man is no use to me unless he can live without me. Odd, isn’t it. Once I’m sure he can live without me, I’m perfectly willing to deliver myself tied hand and foot.
Letter to Allen Grover
6th August 1936
There are two kinds of screenwriters. There are the adept technicians, who know how to work with the medium and how to subordinate themselves to the use of the camera and the actors by the director. Their work is polished, effective, and entirely anonymous. Nothing they do bears any stamp of individuality. Then there is the writer whose personal touch must be allowed to come through, because his personal touch is what makes him a writer. Obviously a writer of this kind should never work for a director like Hitchcock, because there must be nothing in a Hitchcock picture which Hitchcock himself might not have written. It is not merely a question of how Hitchcock uses his camera and his actors; the point is that there must be nothing in his pictures which is beyond his range. Eventually there will be a type of director who realizes that what is said and how it is said is more important than shooting it upside down through a glass of champagne.
Letter to Sol Siegal (exec at Twentieth Century-Fox)
27th April 1951
(From The Raymond Chandler Papers)
Goodbye for now and all kinds of mentionable, unmentionable, tangible, intangible, monostitched, laconic, desperate, deliberate, makeshift, conclusive, unanswerable, goatish, porcine, mulish, zoomorphic, dovelike, recoverable, conservative, waterproof, bloodsucking, unauthorized, fictitious, authentic
Letter to William Theophilus Brown
There’s a brilliant book titled Personal Letterworks, written by Judi Barton and Nate Rosenblatt, published in 1994, that is essentially a collection of pre-written letters for just about any situation you can imagine. From the awkward apologies needed when your pet wreaks havoc at a friend's house, to the delicate words required to address personal grievances, this book covers a lot of ground, and it covers it well. My favourite part, however, is the contents section at the front—an evocative list of pretty much every conceivable social faux pas, complaint, and heartfelt sentiment one might need to express in a letter. The following is just a fraction.
Sorry My Child Misbehaved
Sorry My Pet Caused Trouble
Sorry I Spoiled Your Party
Sorry I Was out of Town for Your Award
Sorry I Burned a Hole in Your Sofa
Sorry I Drank Too Much
Sorry I Blamed You for Something You Didn’t Do
Sorry I Lied to You
Sorry I Misunderstood Your Intentions
Sorry I Started a Fight
Your Lawn Needs Mowing
Don’t Use Our Pool Without Permission
You Forgot to Return My Tools
Your Dog’s Barking Keeps Me Awake
Your Child Is Bullying Mine
Your Child Stole Something
Your Clerk Made an Ethnic Slur
Your Waiter Made Sexist Comments to Me
Your Salesperson Has an Offensive Odor
My Car’s a Lemon—Replace It
Family and Friends
Dear Mom and Dad, My Grades Were Awful
Dear Mom and Dad, I’m Pregnant
Dear Mom and Dad, Please Send Money
Dad Has to Have an Operation
Grandpa Died Peacefully
Our Mutual Friend Has AIDS
My Husband Was Laid Off
Our Mutual Friends Lost Their Home in a Fire
Repay the Money You Borrowed
It’s Your Turn to Take Care of Grandma
Remove the Furniture You Have Stored in My Basement
Introductions and References
I’m the Child You Gave Up for Adoption
I’m Your Biological Mother
Stop Stalking Me
I’m Having an Affair with Your Wife
Stop Seeing My Husband
You’re a Bigot
Your Coaching Style Is Destructive
You Didn’t Understand My Needs
My Guests Felt Snubbed by You
You Set a Bad Example for My Children
I Won’t Lend You Money
I Won’t Let You Borrow My Dress
I Won’t Support Your Addiction