‘Half the World Away’: Letters From Around the Globe
By Jonathan Coste
Edited by Jon McGregor and Hannah Laker
The Letters Page are back in office and we’re ready to hit your inboxes again! In this feature, Jonathan Coste considers how letters can provide us with windows to the widest corners of the world.
I am not a particularly massive fan of Oasis. I know their biggest songs (everyone knows Wonderwall) and I am also aware of the decades long fervent animosity that still remains between brothers Liam and Noel. Perhaps you’re wondering the relevance (or rather lack of it) to this article, yet as I sit down at my desk, searching for inspiration for this piece, in the next room my Dad’s vinyl of Oasis’ Half the World Away’ is crackling and whirring as the needle first presses onto the record.
“You’re Half the World Away,
Half the World Away,
I’ve been lost,
I’ve been found,
But I don’t feel down.”
Whilst the song is not explicitly framed as a letter, that’s the way I always hear it. For instance, like a letter it has an addressee, in this case the unknown recipient is someone to whom the speaker confides his desire to escape their surroundings, which he can ‘no longer stand’. Ultimately, it is bleak and melancholic, the softly strummed guitar strings in conjunction with Noel’s understated vocals results in a melody that makes you feel like you are drifting away from everything around you, calmly; softly. Whilst both the listener of the song, and the intended addressee of the letter can indeed drift away; removed from the speaker’s environment, his ambition is to remain forever unrealised. Aware of his unchanging predicament, he chooses to write to them, as the letter concludes with the speaker reassuring the addressee that the process has left him perhaps hopeful and somewhat fulfilled, and for them not to worry about him: ‘I don’t feel down, I don’t feel down. Don’t feel down.’
For most of this week I have continued to listen to the song, constantly thumbing the replay button on Spotify. Indeed, it resonated with me deeply, and as I excitedly explored the archives of The Letters Page, the song playing in my headphones, it occurred to me how incredibly diverse our submissions have been over the years. Not just simply in the content of these letters, but also in the backgrounds of the authors, and perhaps more prevalently, the location from which they penned their handcrafted pieces. In fact, the only continent that has evaded us so far is the most inhospitable realm of Antarctica. Indeed, throughout the history of The Letters Page, we have received letters from far and wide. For instance, Xu Xi’s letter crafted from the heart of Hong Kong, or Nancy Campbell’s ‘Bless Bless’, which recounts her yearning to return to her lover, who she last visited amongst the ‘Giant icicles’ of the Icelandic spring. Similar letters from the far reaches of New Mexico, and Indonesia have also found their way to us across thousands of miles of land and sea. And whilst these writers’ letters are all different, through our journal their pieces may rub shoulder to shoulder, beautifully interwoven as richly rewarding volumes of culture, published to be accessed, celebrated, championed.
Letters provide us with a window into a world that we may never gaze upon with our own eyes. Like the song itself, the letters we receive at The Letters Page may indeed be from ‘half the world away.’ So, wherever you may be, why not give it a go and send one to us at The Letters Page. And if you are in Antarctica with a pen and paper… You know what to do!
The Letters Page team are back in the office, and ready to read your real letters again. We publish stories, essays, poems, memoir, reportage, criticism, recipes, travelogue, and any hybrid forms, so long as they come to us in the form of a letter. We are looking for writers of all nationalities and ages, both established and emerging.
Your letter must be sent in the post, to :
The Letters Page, School of English, University of Nottingham, NG7 2RD, UK.
See our submissions page for more information.
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