The point of correspondence

As I read Foreign Correspondent, I was wondering why Howard would choose to include parts of so many letters in her text, interspersed with the narrator’s judgments or thoughts on the words of her correspondent. As a refreshingly different narrator from Reno, Johnnie is eager to expose who she is and how she functions. She says early on, as pointed out by Joseph, her interest is in voids, and how they can be filled. She fixates on the idea of heart and emptiness of the torso, or of the chest. 

   The narrator’s correspondences with (or really, to) Scooter really fascinated me as I find them to be a fantastic depiction of girlish obsession. Johnnie’s letters to him are not framed for the reader in any clear way, but by the way she writes, you can tell the text has shifted from narration to correspondence. The inclusion of these letters and their tone confused me: why is the narrator so interested in Scooter? Why does she write with such anabashed admiration?

   These questions seemed directly addressed by the comment from Johnnie’s coworker, the local sportswriter. He asks why she would write to Scooter, and says he is “probably punchy” (30), which struck me as odd: should the narrator be afraid of Scooter? The writer goes on to tell the narrator that her admiration of Scooter is “not grounds for correspondence” (31).

   I felt this clarified the intent of the book, because isn’t thinking your correspondent is “awesome” (31) the whole reason you would write to them? In personal relationships, writing to one another seems like a reasonable expression of your interest in them. Of course, Johnnie isn’t exactly in a personal relationship with Scooter. The sportswriter thinks that lack of connection blocks Scooter off from Johnnie somehow; he thinks her interest is not enough of a reason to attempt correspondence. But I think, and I believe Johnnie thinks, that being an investigative reporter and interested party give her more than enough reason to write to Scooter and ask questions of him, even if the questions approach intimate territory.

   I also thought about how correspondence works in terms of the author, Howard, writing to us, the readers–is it a problem that she is writing to us, without having any personal connection to us? We are absolutely interested in what she has to say. So the question becomes: how does a novel differentiate from a letter to a friend or foreign correspondent? Aren’t we foreign correspondents with the author, even if we can’t replY? I love this concept and the discussion of intimacy, personal connections, and voids here. Johnnie is so wonderfully vulnerable; she reminds me of a teenage girl, pining for Edward Cullen, in all his violent vampire glory. 

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