August 16, 2004

The Dwindling Exactitude of Mail, part 2

Dear Uborkites,

I am disappointed that none of you have yet taken up my challenge from yesterday. Perhaps it was my disagreeable humour. Or was it that you too had to pick up the kids from school? Come on now, it was Sunday.

Since none saw fit to even boo me off the letterbox, I have no choice but to continue my correspondence alone with some imaginary über-borkite*, a manifestation of my entire readership. But one of the virtues of the letter is surely knowing your audience.

I had planned to address my next letter to the Uborkite bold enough to respond. The advantage of letter writing is that one usually has a single reader in mind, and therefore writes in a voice suited to the intended recipient. Thus, when writing to a literary friend who likes to pontificate unhindered I might adopt a different tone to that used when writing to thank my grandfather for a 2 pound Boots token. There is one Uborkite in particular who has previously been the recipient of my letters, and that is Karen. Thankfully she falls closer to the unhindered pontification end of the spectrum than the thanks for the shaving balm.

She will vouch for the frequency with which I used to write, as I will vouch for hers. But I would expect that she’d also admit that we both used to write letters of greater depth and clarity than we are wont to do today. I’m not saying that we wrote anything that will be studied by later generations, but there must have been passages of flair in both our missives. This is because we took time over our leters and we knew our audience.

The writer Kurt Vonnegut says that the moment when he got to grips with writing was the moment when he realised who he was writing for. He writes his novels with his sister in mind as his ideal reader. The reason so many people besides his sister can enjoy his novels is first because he writes with the confidence of a man who knows his readership, and second because his books are published by the likes of Vintage and Bantam Doubleday Dell with worldwide distribution deals.

Assure yourself of the first, and the latter will follow!

This brings me to an interesting point that arose in discussion with a friend and former-colleague whom I have previously referred to as Flight Lieutenant Moth. F. L. Moth reads both Uborka and Pockless, although he seldom comments. When commenting on Pockless he invariably does so in the guise of an elderly woman, which suggests to me that he would have been an ideal candidate for last week’s theme. I deeply regret that he does not make his presense felt more frequently, but the chances are that he will not have read this far down the page for reasons that I shall arrive at presently.

He described the difference between Pockless and Uborka as that between a broadsheet and a tabloid. He cannot be bothered to read the former because the posts are long and tend to go on a bit. Uborka, on the other hand is less obscure, speaks to a wider audience and prone to a highly enjoyable type of sensationalism. This is nothing to be ashamed of. Uborka, like Vonnegut, reaches a wider audience because its writers know their audience. It is written for Uborkites by Uborkites, and as a result, one does not have to be an Uborkite to enjoy it. One merely needs to have similar tastes. Like Vonnegut’s sister. Or mine.

This exposes a weakness in Pockless I’m only too aware of. My audience is me. Until I can be assured of a single audience other than myself it shall lack the focus of great writing. In the mean time, one hopes you’ll enjoy the pictures. As I told Uborka Pete, the words are just padding for the pictures anyway.

So, Uborkite, for whom do you write?

Yours stertorously,

Doctor Pockless
Inglorious Grammarian & Man of Letters

*PS. For those of you interested, the über-borkite is approximately 5 foot 9 inches tall and of indeterminate gender, although with a slight (and unfortunate) male bias. S/he wears exquisite shoes, but is not nearly as kinky as we were at first led to believe, and likes a drink, especially on Friday. His/her favourite colour is green. Since I am reasonably confident that this is not you, we may here see the folly of statistics in action.

Doctor Pockless