The Dear John Letters

Volume 7, Number 1, Spring 2001

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The Dear John Letters

by Southern Cultures Editors
Southern Cultures, Vol. 7, No. 1, Spring 2001

"Daddy said he wouldn't go to church, so she shot him."

They are hastily put-together things, often arriving here on the front lines in used envelopes with the flaps re-taped. Sometimes they arrive postage due. The notes inside occasionally reflect a disdain for punctuation and a distinct irreverence toward spelling. They boast of shared ancestry, philosophy, and tastes in bourbon, and sometimes all three. These are what we call the “Dear John” letters–that correspondence sent to our office care of our coeditor, John Shelton Reed, or, as many of his fans, colleagues, and groupies simply call him: “Reed.”

By these letters it seems our coeditor knew, knows, or soon finally will know everybody, or he at least knows of somebody who knows [your name here]. This is borne out by the editorial staff’s seldom forays out of the trenches and up into the real world, where chance encounters always turn into discussions about Reed. “Reed says West Virginia isn’t in the South.” (Reportedly an actual classroom quote.) “Does he still have that picture of Reagan on his desk?” (He does.) “Does he still wear that same sort-of-tweed sports jacket?” (Yes, in all weather.)