The other day I opened up an old issue of The Paris Review to a poem by Elizabeth Neiditz, That I was not Insane, or Worse.
The ending lines sounded familiar:
And my father, a master of the two-line letter
And the fifty-six second phone call,
Liked to say that “brevity is the spice of life.”
My father, to my knowledge, never said “brevity is the spice of life”, but he was a master of the two-line letter and the fifty-six second phone call. My only exposure to his letter writing was the notes he included with the checks he sent when I was in college, the full text of which was something like “I know you need this so I won’t waste time writing much. Love, Dad”
The phone call was not really fifty-six seconds because Mom would talk longer, but Dad would come on to say hi. Fifty-six seconds would have been a long time on the phone with Dad.
I have no idea why conversations with Dad were inherently brief, but a possibility for the brief letters occurs to me. Dad was an excellent attorney. I have been told that a big reason for that was his thoroughness. He covered all the details. I suspect that this was not a difficult skill to learn for him, that he had a natural instinct to be thorough. The letters had to be brief, since any expansiveness would then require a detail or two to be covered. Much simpler to keep it down to the bare bones.
Then again, maybe he was just busy.
I know as I blog that my goal is to always be brief. Mostly because I do not like blogs that consistently have long posts. I can’t believe I am the only one who feels that way. But my efforts to be brief are constantly frustrated by the desire to explain a bit more.
If this PDF (4.06 MB) is relevant (and I believe it is), then Elizabeth Neiditz is now Elizabeth Benedict.
I must confess that for all of Dad’s brevity in letters, I make him look like Dickens in comparison. I have written too few letters in my lifetime.