This is perhaps the best letter I never read.
Slate recently posted this stellar breakdown of a get-well letter sent by three friends of the great writer during his convalescence after he received an injury while driving ambulance on the front lines in Italy during World War I.
I have been known to write a letter to my buddies back in Missoula. I’ll admit, it was only a letter. Perhaps I should rethink how I write my letters, as these men did.
Yes, alcohol is a main character in this story, but how could it not be among men responsible for saving lives in the War to end War?
And the fact that they characterized their friend based on something familiar and not at all menacing, as it would later become, speaks volumes about friendship.
The letter is a cheerful narrative of the three friends’ recent hijinks. In the salutation, the writers used a foaming mug of beer to represent Hemingway’s name (he was often called “Hemingstein”); clearly, these were men who shared Hemingway’s love for inebriation. Throughout the letter, alcohol plays a prominent part in their adventures.
As for me, I saved copies of these letters, and I’m going to spend some time trying to decipher them tonight.