When a well-known person dies nowadays, everyone can learn about it within the hour because of the incredible speed the news spreads around the World Wide Web, and our intensely intimate relationship with it. Because this is a project about well-known dead people, I inevitably receive many emails within a day or two of their deaths, informing me of their deaths and urging me to write a letter for them. (Totally understandably, of course - and I’m very grateful that you think of this project when there is death in the news!)
I however hesitate to respond so urgently to the well-publicized deaths. I want this project to give them at least a week before attempts are made at addressing them, because I think everyone deserves a moment of silence before we jump to commenting on their life’s work and way of life.
I know that if the project jumped at every opportunity to react to people’s deaths shortly afterwards, it would garner more attention and the letters would be more popular, because the recently dead person would be on everyone’s mind. But I personally feel uncomfortable reacting so swiftly. I think it would be rather opportunist and exploitative, no matter how respectful the letter.
I am thinking of the morning after Michael Jackson’s death. I woke up to see endless articles about his life in the papers and online, TV specials hastily put together, and a vast number of Michael’s biographies suddenly and obnoxiously displayed at bookstores. It bugged me a lot to see a person’s death, which is probably the most private thing a person can do in their life, treated like a “hot new thing” for public consumption.
So letters to dead people will give dead people some time. I really hope you understand.
On a less serious but nonetheless important note: Thank you, again, for your continued support! I hope you are having fun with the letters as much as I am. Please don’t hesitate to email suggestions/dead persons/questions/comments/whatever to me!