Interview on The Letters Page
I have been interviewed by The Letters Page about the art of letter writing.
Do you have a memorable letter writing experience you could share with us?
I am currently engaged in quite an odd letter writing experience. I have a friend, Alan The Postman, who lives about a mile and a half away from me, up near Ted Hughes’ old house near Hebden Bridge, which is now run as an Arvon writing school. Alan doesn’t do digital so instead he writes me letters. These letters happen to be some of the greatest works of literature of recent times. Alan has a fantastically analytical and critical mind, which he can turn to art, music, literature, politics – anything. He’s a voracious reader too, an excellent painter, film expert and jazz expert and he also hold doctorate in horror film which officially makes him, a Doctor Of Horror. He spends the day tramping the streets of Calderdale, counting down the days to his retirement (“Only exactly six hundred more to go”) which he has been doing for the five years that I have known him, and ruminating on all manner of subjects.
So whenever I am publishing a new novel I send a copy to him and await his carefully considered – though often lacerating – hand-written seven page response. It has got to the point now that when I am writing I often say to myself “What would Alan think?”
Alas, my letters can’t compete with his. Because I spend so much of time writing fiction and doing a lot of freelance journalism my return missives always feel like they’ve be dashed out compared to his considered, often tipsy, affairs. He’s funny too. The literary portraits he paints of his postal worker colleagues – many of whom he does not think highly of – are quite something. He’s actually better than most writers I know. The bastard.
I wrote and received a lot of letters as a teenager too, back in the mid and early 1990s, when I went away to university. I have kept them all in a shoe-box; some featured poems sent to girls. I daren’t read them.
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