Epistolary Form and Connection

Indubitably there is a fierce fascination with connection in Foreign Correspondent, as well as mode of connection and how particular forms of correspondence can alter the way a message is emitted and perceived, or how a relationship is built. I was wondering where this fixation might have come from, and where Joanna Howard’s interest in epistolary form may have germinated — with all of Johnnie’s letters, her delving into professional reporting but also the intimacy and public/private overlap of letter-correspondence. I came upon an interesting interview with Howard posted online over the weekend that maybe helps to clarify this interest a bit; she explains to a reader on BOMBLOG that the book came together “around the form and the figure,” and “it’s a real test to see how long you can sustain a relationship with only your words.” She was interested in developing Johnnie as a character, but also wielding the letter as a form of interaction between people, as a way of sustaining or building a connection between two souls. Indeed, in the very beginning of the book, Johnnie describes her hesitation to take photographs of herself interacting with acquaintances: “I’ve grown suspicious of taking photographs with friends if the purpose is to prove my own connection to another human, to prove it definitively for strangers, or for myself…” (3). Johnnie is focused on forging these connections organically and genuinely, I think, not through a smog of vanity, marked by posed pictures, somehow “proven.” And these genuine and natural connections, we see, can be forged through letter-writing; the epistolary form engages, provides some level of intimacy between the reader and writer, expresses the emotion and interest that the author is feeling at that time in way that packaged, edited writing that happens after the fact cannot: as Howard explains in the interview, she’s drawn to the way the letter form “opened up a longing that was never being filled.”

 

Here’s the link to the interview on BOMBLOG with Joanna Howard: http://bombsite.com/articles/7349

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