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January 3, 2005 |

Dear Mr. Keillor,
I am so happy Mrs. Sundberg got that really nice letter from that medical resident. It takes a little extra to write a letter, as you know perfectly well, while the rest of us only think about writing and we all know how nice it is to get a letter mixed in with the Excel bill and the mortgage statement and the solicitations from organizations you donated once to three, four years ago when everyone that year said, instead of a gift why don't you just donate some money. I notice this year people are asking for books, which must be pleasant news for a writer, don't you think? Which brings me to my question, Mr. Keillor, if you don't mind my being so forward, I think you should collect up all those views from Mrs. Sundberg's window and publish them all in one book. The Internet is a fine thing, but there's nothing like holding a real book, with its weight, and the tick of the paper as you release the next page from your thumb, or if you turn the page from the corner, how it can sound like walking in the snow sometimes, and how satisfying it is to close the book and look up, out the window, and think about what you're reading, all mixed in with thoughts about groceries, the lives of sparrows, and the letters you mean to write one day.

Su Smallen

Mrs. Sundberg loved your letter, Su. Here's what she said in response…

Dear Su,
Well thank you kindly for your words. I have to say I agree with you wholeheartedly about books. Don't get me wrong — the Internet is wonderful and I'd wander around bumping into windows and cabinets without it, but the ability to hold a book in one's hand and read it and fall asleep doing so is one of the seven great things about being human. When I was growing up there was an oak tree along the side of our house with a big ol' thick limb that ran perpendicular to the tree much like a giant thumb and on summer days I'd get out the red wagon and use it to climb up onto that limb where I'd sit and read all afternoon. I read Charles Dickens and Harper Lee and James Herriot and even Walt Whitman up in that tree. I read about open-heart surgery and Anne Boleyn and the Peshtigo Fire and the Lindbergh kidnapping and while reading about the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World it came to me that there must be the Seven Wonders of Being Human. I made a list and don't recall much but that "reading books" made the list. Mr. Sundberg often calls my lists "grocery poetry" because I get a bit carried away now and then and fill the paper with words I find lovely and necessary. Though I've never bought a pomegranate, I put the word on my list now and then because I like the sound of "pomegranate." Same with "filet of sole" and "saffron" and "marzipan." Never bought any, but I like the idea so put them on the list. And I like the thought of writing a book. But I'm not an expert in anything, really, so it would take some thought. I know a lot about baking and ice fishing and the best places to find wild blueberries. I know about paying bills on time and how to build a campfire. Mostly ordinary things. I don't know anything at all about quantum physics or making cheese but I'm interested. Maybe I just need to read some more and one day it'll hit me and I'll do it and I'll have you to thank in part for giving me a little nudge like my mother did whenever it was my turn to speak and I hesitated for whatever reason.

I hope someone gave you a good book recently, Su, and that one of these cold cold nights you fall asleep reading with snow blowing against the window and more than one quilt piled on you and not much to do in the morning but make some coffee and pick up right where you left off.

Mrs. Sundberg

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