The Ministry of Melancholic Nostalgia for Thing-ness

Gorey

For Edward Gorey, even letters to Mom featured whimsical illustrations from his morbid imagination. (Photo copyright Goreyography.com)  


I found myself captivated this summer by an exhibit at the Brandywine River Museum of Edward Gorey illustrations
that included some exquisite hand-drawn envelopes for letters he had
written to his mother, Helen. Even more than the other beautiful, amusing and slightly macabre work
on display, those drawings got me thinking about the loss of material
artifacts that comes with digital communication and its insinuation
into every nook of daily life. Librarians and historians and curators
certainly must rue this turn of events, but so do I.

Digging
through my parents' garage, I recently unearthed a shoebox stuffed with
letters from an old long-distance flame of mine. Some day far in the
future, when I'm feeling nostalgic or working on my memoirs, I'll enjoy
reading those heartfelt missives and laughing (or cringing) at
reminders of the British life I used to lead. It's saddening that I
won't be able to do the same for my lovely and amazing boyfriend now,
because the flurry of romantic texts and e-mail and chat messages he
sends me aren't sitting safely in a box anywhere.

If a museum
ever mounted a retrospective on my life, the curators would be stymied
trying to exhibit anything after 1997-1998, when I sent my parents a
parcel of letters from Beijing that now serve as my main diary of that
Chinese escapade. (Note: The letters feature an unfortunate lack of
resemblance to Gorey's. I accepted the fact a long time ago that drawing does not count among my talents.) To represent the past decade, they'd have to
turn to my Facebook profile… and anyone could read that at home without heading
to the museum. Where's the fun in that? People would miss out on not only crystallizing moments — such as the Brandywine one, which led me to launch
this blog — but also gift shops.

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