I used to write letters to newspapers and magazines. People did, way back then. Possibly inspired by Morrissey, I began with the weekly music press (something about an album of Velvet Underground out-takes, I seem to recall) before moving on to the broadsheets, and also the likes of Time Out, Esquire and the Modern Review (which used to offer free subscriptions for every letter published – I got a free subscription for writing a letter asking how many free subscriptions Germaine Greer had earned). Here, from 2004, is an epistle to The Spectator:
Roger Scruton’s invocation of Manet in his attempt to demonstrate the existence of the soul is flawed (‘What it means to be human’, 20 March). ‘Bar at the Folies Bergère’ ‘is’ a young woman only in the sense that the viewer, familiar with the conventions of Western representational art of the 19th century, puts that interpretation on it. As Magritte pointed out, ‘Ceci n’est pas une pipe.’ It is, rather, we who translate the artist’s efforts into a woman, a pipe, sunflowers, etc... Similarly, ‘the soul’ exists within human existence only to the extent that believers interpret existence thus. The idea that a work of art is ‘real’ and the idea that God is ‘real’ rely on the same intellectual and emotional characteristic — suspension of disbelief.
But five years ago today, I started blogging, an idea that seized several other people around the same time. Perhaps not entirely coincidentally, the letters ceased. But as you can see from the above example, the content has remained pretty much the same. In this case, the message transcends the medium.