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E-Mail Has Nothing on the Real Thing

June 23, 1995

I beg to differ with Ann Shields' opinion that letter writing is dead ("Reach Out and Fax Someone," June 7). Although Shields preaches with all the zeal of a recent convert to the cult of digital orthodoxy, she misses the ultimate point that a personal letter is more than the simple conveyance of text. It is a highly individualized art form combining all the best of writing, drawing and expression that simply cannot be superseded by speeding binary bullets.

The seductive look and feel of fine stationery; the scratched-out words and sometimes questionable spelling; casual sketches in the margins and the flourish of the signature. Happening on an actual letter in the deadly morass of junk mail and bills has the emotional charge of discovering a diamond in a gravel pit.

Where is the fun in receiving techno-mail? It all looks alike, and is usually heralded by an unpleasant mechanical shriek. It's a sharp slap instead of a warm embrace.

Ah, but it's instantaneous, you say? Immediate gratification is just a polite way of saying that these little digital dispatches demand your instant attention and require an equally instantaneous reply. That may be the cruising speed of business barbarians, in whom the higher cerebral functions of conscious consideration and values have been jettisoned as wasteful and inefficient to be replaced by crocodile-brain reflex reactions.

This looming devolution of the human race will be the problem of future Darwins, but it has nothing whatever to do with the civilized rite of loosening your collar, kicking off your shoes, falling into a big chair and unbending in postal discourse with a friend.

SUSAN TAKACS

Glendale

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