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Thank You All the Time

Julia Turner on the etiquette of thank-you notes:

The thank-you note, however, is a difficult form, only slightly less tricky than the villanelle. The smallest notecard can seem a yawning canvas and reduce even the best writer to adverbs and redundancies. (“Dear Aunt May, Thank you so very much for the exceedingly beautiful socks, which are truly exquisite.”) Even worse, we’re supposed to write them all the time. Etiquette cops agree: Whenever anyone does anything nice (like, say, give you a ride in the gubernatorial plane) you should dash off a handwritten note of thanks and send it along post haste. The point is not to compose a masterpiece, but to get the damn thing in the mail.

Thank you for Virginia Woolf:

My dear Nelly,

But the fur is another matter. It is a very subtle and serious matter, wrapped round the most secret fibres of our consciousness; you don’t know what a lot might be said and felt and thought what reams, therefore might be written about such a gift; and here am I going to squeeze all this in to the usual Thank you. I think I ought to be hurt, and then angry, and then apologetic, and then generous, and then sentimental and then philosophical, and then merely friendly. Whereas I am none of these things; only I think I am grateful because, if I have none of the finer feelings, I am yet fitted with a marvelous simplicity of nature so that to buy a fur is impossible to me, but to accept a fur is quite easy and pleasant. O well this is the way we writers write when we wish not to say something.

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