by Kathleen Adamson, August 30, 2021
Care of: Letters Connections and Cures, Ivan Coyote, McClelland & Stewart, June 8, 2021, 256 pp., $18.89
Ivan Coyote knows our relationship with communication technology has drastically changed over the past decade. Online interactions have become the norm. First, because it was fashionable, and now, because it is necessary. While a few have welcomed this shift, many others mourn it. The question persists. What is the best way to foster restorative, true connection at a distance? Is it an online wine tasting, a religious service over the radio?
For Ivan Coyote, the answer was writing letters.
As a performer, Coyote spent most of the 21st century travelling, but was stopped short by pandemic travel restrictions. This book is a record of what happened next. Coyote began to work through a stack of unanswered correspondence, writing and mailing letters by hand. The 20 letters in this book have an essay-like quality. It’s impossible not to get philosophical when you’re writing a monologue, even if it is directed at one other person, this letters are intimate, with a warm, vulnerable roughness that is pleasant to read. The people to whom Coyote is replying are friends of friends, strangers met at shows, remind us of an in-person ‘social network’, the origins of social media. It feels comfortingly close. Through this network of relationships, Coyote’s letters explore the meaning of ‘chosen family,’ those friends who, over time, come to take on the role of family. They drive to hospital appointments, look after grown children in other cities, grieve with you.
Reading these 20 letters has the calm pace of handwritten text, with the slight urgency of a confession. It is a useful reminder of the power of long-form, personal texts, which is also contributing to the increased popularity of journalistic ‘newsletters,’ a point Benjamin Miller makes in the context of social media in his book The 100-year PR Plan, reviewed here by me on May 13, 2021!).
Kathleen Adamson is a musician, composer, academic, and community activist based in Montreal, Canada.
More reviews by Kathleen Adamson
On Time and Water by Andri Snær Magnason made me feel better about climate, ‘if such a thing is possible’ July 21, 2021
Marcus Aurelius: No abstracted ponderer July 8, 2021
Information, the Book: Editors’ efforts have borne excellent fruit June 28, 2021
Hannah Arendt: Deeply influential 20th century thinker embodies contradiction, passion and a proximity to history May 23, 2021
Benjamin Miller: Very rarely does an author take political theory and interpret it with such relevance and clarity May 13, 2021