Years ago—like, say, back in 1997—people used to keep sacred letters stored in special boxes like treasure—now, they’re stored in your inbox forever to haunt, or be deleted. You could dramatically burn a love letter, never to be reminded of things that once were, but an e-mail? There’s no romanticism in clicking “Trash.” Authors Thomas Mallon (Yours Ever: People and Their Letters) and John Freeman (The Tyranny of E-mail: The Four-Thousand-Year Journey to Your Inbox) will discuss the disadvantages of our new technology, read historical letters, and perhaps get to the bottom of why reading from an actual piece of paper instead of a screen means so much more. Freeman recently said in an interview that letter reading “requires a prolonged submersion . . . it encourages complex thought and mindfulness,” whereas “social media means you are constantly bouncing from one thing to the next. No one has ever looked sexy looking at e-mail.” That’s why we always suggest printing out the e-mail.

Wed., Jan. 20, 7:30 p.m., 2010