Exclusive: My Occidental College Love LettersS

Today, Vanity Fair published several excerpts from the romantic correspondence of a young Barack Obama, displaying a penetrating mind and an impressive command of language on the part of the future president, who had just transferred from Occidental College to Columbia. His letters, as biographer David Maraniss writes, "wove [their] way though literature, politics, and personal philosophy"; our own Maureen O'Connor notes that they "reference T.S. Eliot, 'bourgeois liberalism,' and Jacques Derrida."

But Obama was not the only young man to have passed through Occidental College with an imposing body of epistolary work. I, too, was a student at Occidental (though more recently), and I've saved nearly all of my own correspondence with my girlfriend from my time at "the Princeton of the West."

There are some remarkable similarities. Like Obama's letters, my emails are attempts to "find [my] place in the whirl of humanity." In 1981, Obama wrote to his paramour Alex McNear "Remember how I said there's a certain kind of conservatism which I respect more than bourgeois liberalism — Eliot is of this type"; some 25 years later, animated by the same spirit, I wrote "come online" to my own girlfriend. The parallels are sometimes eerie: "And this fatalism is born out of the relation between fertility and death, which I touched on in my last letter-life feeds on itself. A fatalism I share with the western tradition at times. You seem surprised at Eliot's irreconcilable ambivalence; don't you share this ambivalence yourself, Alex?" writes Obama. It's hard not to see that question contained in a question of mine: "are you in the library????????"

In the spirit of transparency, and to celebrate the continuing tradition of vigorous intellectual engagement supported by my alma mater, I've reproduced more of my correspondence below.

From: Max
Subject:
Date: April 23, 2006 2:25:44 PM EDT
To: Ariana

come online


From: Max
Subject: Re:
Date: October 26, 2006 5:12:28 PM EST
To: Ariana

are you in the library????????


From: Max
Subject: Re:
Date: December 26, 2006 5:12:28 PM EST
To: Ariana

hello??????


From: Max
Subject:
Date: July 16, 2007 2:09:01 PM EDT
To: Ariana

ugh where did u go i was trying ot im you but nothing was going thru


From: Max
Subject: Re:
Date: June 8, 2007 11:01:33 AM EDT
To: Ariana

ill call you when i get off of work


From: Max
Subject: hi
Date: March 20, 2008 2:04:05 PM EDT
To: Ariana

i just called you.


From: Max
Subject: where u go?
Date: April 14, 2008 5:48:27 PM EDT
To: Ariana

call me


From: Max
Subject: Fwd: Circulation Notices
Date: April 23, 2008 12:29:06 PM EDT
To: Ariana

Begin forwarded message:
From: Circ Email Notices
Date: April 23, 2008 8:31:30 AM PDT
To: mread@oxy.edu
Subject: Circulation Notices
Reply-To: circdesk@exchange.oxy.edu

04-23-08
Occidental College Library
Circulation Desk, 323 259-2640
1600 Campus Rd
Los Angeles, CA 90041-3314

Malcolm B Read
Box 0084

The item(s) listed below are now overdue. Please return promptly.

You may renew your items at
https://oasys.lib.oxy.edu/patroninfo

AUTHOR:
Design in Scandinavia; an exhibition
CALL NO: NK979 .D47
BARCODE: 35043001123321
Clapp Library Room 363 DUE: 04-22-08
DATE CHECKED OUT: 04-01-08 12:45PM

1:10


From: Max
Subject: Re:
Date: May 15, 2008 9:41:58 AM EDT
To: Ariana

aim isnt working for some reason, can you come on google chat