Epistles from the Commodores

lettersNobody writes letters much anymore,” goes a common lament among alumni magazine editors.

Who doesn’t like to receive letters? And who doesn’t enjoy reading a fat, juicy letters section? It’s often the first thing I turn to when I open a magazine, especially when I’m reading a publication I’ve never seen before.

Perhaps it’s not surprising that Vanderbilt Magazine readers—who write so many of the articles and essays themselves—are also prolific letter writers. These days, most come to our office in the form of emails. And many are nothing more than a sentence or two of encouraging words.

But we also receive a fair number that are good old-fashioned handwritten epistles, composed according to the form that those of us of a certain age learned in grammar school: writer’s address, date, inside address, salutation, body, closing and signature.

As Vanderbilt Magazine editor I’ve received letters accusing me of being a tool of the extreme right and a tool of the extreme left. Other letter writers have concluded that we are sending subliminal messages or displaying great naiveté. I’ve even received letters from incarcerated men seeking assistance in redressing miscarriages of justice—complete with some pretty good original artwork on the envelope.

Mostly, though, our letter writers display two traits I think of as rather Southern. They are civil even when angry or pointing out inaccuracies in the magazine. And they love to tell stories. This issue’s letter section includes several great little anecdotes.

As in most issues, the letters you find here are largely from older readers. And as is often the case, our letter writers are mostly men. I might be tempted to speculate about the reasons for that—but the last time I ventured into the arena of commenting about issues of gender in Vanderbilt Magazine, the letters we received were blistering.

If you’d like to see more discussion about Vanderbilt Magazine, check out the comments on our website. Our last issue, for example, prompted a number of posts from readers about basketball player and role model Steve Tchiengang.

Thanks to all our readers who take time to give us feedback and enliven the magazine.

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