An audience of one

Letters remain our most intimate form of written communication. In this media-saturated age, even our most private moments may be invaded by the sense of being observed: the invisible camera eye, the ear in the wall, the haunting intuition that history is reading over our shoulders. But for certain individuals, branded with fame, this vulnerability has always been cold fact. Artists, politicians, heroes, villains, and friends -- all function beneath the vague awareness that their communications may one day appear in the public marketplace. Yet still they write, vividly and honestly. The unspoken principle behind their efforts seems to be this: I would rather that thousands think of me as foolish than have you consider me untrue.m

The popular novelist Kurt Vonnegut Jr. has written: "Any creation which has any wholeness and harmoniousness, I suspect, was made by an artist or inventor with an audience of one in mind." The clear and unaffected voice we sometimes find in such correspondence, aimed at one special pair of ears, seems to speak personally to each of us; reading the words, we write a silent answer inside.

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