Vol 1 Issue 27
Elena A Last Time
For two people who never met each other, we had things in common. We had a handful of friends who knew us both; we had the books we were reading, and we had rock and roll. What we didn’t have in common was her straight-A discipline and focus on educating herself through literature (her lists were always thus), while my tastes in literature at the time ran to fantasy and science fiction–and a subscription to Rolling Stone magazine. I wasn’t so much interested in getting ‘A’s.
But over the years that we corresponded, what was sad was how, as I grew into focusing on design, Elena became increasingly lost. And when her letters stopped as she went off the grid (quite literally), I wanted to believe it was temporary, that as she grew toward her twenties, the lessons at life she was going through wouldn’t leave her stuck. Sadly, I’ll never know. Much as she couldn’t live in her parents’ shadows, she still loved them.
What we can’t see in our teen years is how these experiences form the first, probably the most influential traits we take into adulthood.
If I had to choose Elena’s strongest trait, it would be her love of others–her kindness. My impression was she was way harder on herself, to the point of not understanding how her love made her stand out in a crowd. Was her being an attractive girl what drew people to her? No doubt she did attract them–boys in particular. People are drawn to beauty. But I had the advantage of reading her letters, and knew she was deeper, particularly as she grew older.
If she was a butterfly, she was a beautiful one.
And when I was rereading through Elena’s letters all these years later, I couldn’t help noticing how they tracked the times so closely. We were the War babies. Born in the aftermath of World War II, growing up through the Korean War, the Cold War and ‘volunteered’ into the Vietnam fiasco.
The Jesuit chaplain at Clemson, Father Fisher did a good job convincing me that pacifism was a righteous path. Whether I had the strength of conviction to go through with it was never tested: a high draft number saved my ass. Elena was on the right side of that argument. Her brother was draft age; did he go to Vietnam after Princeton? No way of knowing.
Last year, unboxing the letters, my thought was to sort them and perhaps use them as the basis for a short story, whose plot I figured would come to me, maybe contrasting Gabriella and Elena in a piece of fiction. Last week, transcribing Elena’s letters, it dawned on me that she’d written the letters in a perfect story arc from girlish fifteen-year-old enthusiasm to an older, searching young woman of passion seeking something to claim as hers.
Final comments: Elena’s handwriting evolved over the years from neat longhand to a small, tight script, still neat. And her sentence structure became looser, (though still with parenthetical asides). I found one misspelling in five years; I’m very sure if I saw my own letters from that time, none of that would hold true, particularly the spelling.
If you missed last week’s newsletter, here’s a link to Elena’s Letters.
Can we agree to let this overworked vocabulary oddity die an ignomious death? Whoever dug it out from their Funk and Wagner’s Thesaurus please put it back. Dig it, man.
It’s driving me crazy.
To begin with, the word is eponym not eponymous. Eponymous is an Anglicized misspelling of the Latin eponymus, again the noun mistranslated as an adjective. Probably because the users never studied their Greek.
The two definitions of eponymous given in the Oxford English Dictionary (known to aficionados as OED) are:
“1. That gives (his) name to anything; said esp. of the MYTHICAL PERSONAGES from whose names the names of places or peoples are reputed to be derived. [emphasis added]
“2. Giving his name to the year, as did the chief archon at Athens.”
And when was the last time you needed to use “chief archon” in a sentence? Eponymous, man.
From that very narrow definition, American journalists (mainly) apply the word indiscriminately (meaning willy-nilly  ) such as in: “Donald Trump’s eponymous autobiography.” How about: “Donald Trump’s autobiography” and save four syllables for when you really need them. Obviously, either way that’s an oxymoronic title. The Donald is hardly mythical; would that he were.
And not particularly salubrious either.
OMG it’s Greek no less! DOES NOT WORK FOR TWITTER (emoji, emoji, emoji)
Another appropriate definition:
Four syllables for people sitting through a twelve politician debate hoping to catch some shuteye while being continually startled awake by blather.
Blather’s a good word: “To talk foolishly, talk nonsense. Often in ppl. a. Hence ˈblatherer, a foolish talker” (EOD again.)
Now go read some real literature and stop blathering me. Please!
 Willy-nilly “adv. Whether it be with or against the will of the person or persons concerned; whether one likes it or not; willingly or unwillingly, nolens volens.” OED.