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Upon Reading “An Open Letter”

July 28, 2009

Texts have a curious way of affecting their readers differently at different points of their lives.  (I’m tempted to take this off toward a discussion of Stanley Fish’s notion of interpretative communities, but I’ll resist–though I’ll link to the wiki that is decently comprehensive on the matter)

Never have I thought about my shifting tastes as a reader, but upon reflection my preferences and emotional availabilities have most certainly changed through the years.  During my younger years I was pulled toward stories of action and adventure because, I can only imagine, as a child your future is wholly an adventure. Nothing is set and your personal story can take an infinite number of different shapes.  Moving through middle and high school, I was most affected by narratives that worked through shifting familial roles, especially between father son.  It’s not as if my relationship with my dad was strained (in fact, it was [and is] quite the opposite), but as I grew toward manhood our relationship shifted closer and closer to a friendship, more than that of authority figure and subordinate, and any story that allowed me to better identify those emotions was particularly stirring.  Now that I am married and more-or-less an adult, I am more often struck by stories of marriage, family, and career.  I think it’s only natural that the stories that I can best identify with in the moment stand out most to me.

This afternoon, I had the pleasure of reading “An Open Letter” written by Kathy Rhodes to her husband, shortly after his unexpected passing.  There is an openness to her prose that simply gutted me at my desk;  since I am in public I had to maintain a sense of propriety but it took all the force of my will to keep tears at bay.  Her honesty, love, and still-nagging guilt read clearly throughout the letter and her personal bravery is certainly apparent.

Though the letter was originally found on her blog, it can also be found in The Best Creative Nonfiction, Vol. 3 published by The Creative Nonfiction Foundation.

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