Neil Peart - Go Ahead and Destroy Those Letters (2015)

Scott K Fish

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Neil Peart - Go Ahead and Destroy Those Letters (2015)

SKF NOTE: My reaction to Neil's reply in this email exchange (January 1-3, 2015) was surprise and sadness. Surprise because the Neil I knew was interested in history, collecting -- or at least chronicling. He kept notebooks while traveling. He wrote journals. And at the end of Neil's Rush tours or bicycle/motorcycle trips it seems he always produced a recap; a series of blog posts, a book -- something.

When he responded to my offer to send him copies of his letters - his one of a kind letters - with, "You can go ahead and destroy those letters...," I was taken off-guard, especially with Neil's news that, with some exceptions, he had "burned or shredded all my old letters, in or out."

Neil's certainly not the first historic figure to destroy personal documents. As much as I understand that, that's how much I wince at the potential loss to historians, biographers, and in Neil's case, to musicians.

My email is edited. I removed chit-chat having nothing to do with this exchange. Except I told Neil I had recently contacted drummer Roy McCurdy and was in the process of seeing if Modern Drummer would be interested in my interviewing Mr. McCurdy.

Full story: SKFBlog - https://bit.ly/2yEHoRp
 

Prufrock

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Yes, very interesting. And short-sighted on his part. Emily Dickinson left instructions for her poems to be destroyed when she died. Thankfully her family ignored that (and I hope you did the same with his Neil's suggestion to shred the letters!)
 

Old PIT Guy

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Stands to reason given how little adulation seemed to matter and the importance he placed on personal privacy.

Honestly, and this is no slight against S.F. at all, but I'd have trashed his letters had he asked.
 

cribbon

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I understood Neil's reply to my, Would you like your old letters?, as saying, "If you don't want them, trash them."

Best,
skf
I understand your interpretation, but given that he had destroyed the ones he had - plus the fact that by the time he responded to your query he had already left a large public written legacy (including his books and web site, in addition to the enormous amount of printed interviews/articles on him) - if it were me, I'd either read them over one more time and then destroy them, or if not, retain them for my eyes only (since they were private correspondence) and then destroy them before I passed.
 

Nacci

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I think Peart was a very intelligent man, someone who probably had a difficult time communicating with most people because he was on a more evolved mental and spiritual plane.

The lyrics that he wrote for RUSH are pretty much a journal of someone who was on a journey of apotheosis or climbing Jacob’s ladder you could say.

So, I find his reply interesting. Fish is asking his friend if he wants “copies” of the letters, Peart does not reply; no thank you, I do not want copies, he tells Fish to destroy the letters, Fish’s own personal copies.

Words have meaning. Peart is telling Fish not only do these letters not have meaning and value to him but they should not for Fish. That is the ultimate anti celebrity, a man completely devoid of narcissism and one who was evolving at such a pace the he, in essence, is saying; that man who wrote those letters doesn’t even exist anymore.

Still, within that context, you can tell from the remainder of Peart’s reply that he has genuine affection for Fish. Considering who Peart was that is saying a lot.
 
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Rik_Everglade

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I don't think that you should have even brought this issue up. Private correspondence should have remained private, especially since the letters weren't really historically important. He gave a kind response to you. He obviously thought enough of you to continue personal/private correspondence. Perhaps he mislaid his trust. Were you a friend of his?
 

Old PIT Guy

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I'll probably be pilloried for this opinion because we're dealing with a significant hero worship among fans. Having said this, my pet opinion on Neil Peart's extreme shyness with adulation runs contrary to a lack of narcissism or humbleness, though he indeed was humble considering the huge impact he had on drummers and drumming.

When I imagine what it must have been like in his shoes, acknowledging that he was a very studied, articulate and self-aware person, I come away with the impression that he wasn't at all comfortable with the extreme accolades he received because he didn't feel worthy of it, and probably to the point of embarrassment. It's just a hunch and I've never read his books or any published correspondence beyond what's referenced in this thread.

And so it's with this sensitivity that I wrote that I'd have destroyed, or not shared publicly, private correspondence. But I understand Scott's position in doing so and I'm not passing judgement on it.
 

Scott K Fish

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Neil said "You can go ahead and destroy those letters." His reference is to the two specific letters I mentioned to him. Emphasis on the word "can." He didn't say, "You must...destroy those letters." He didn't say, "It's very important to me that you...destroy those letters." No, Neil said, "You can...destroy those letters." The option is mine. Just as the letters are mine.

Among my favorite books are "The Letters of..." books. I believe Neil enjoyed those books too, just as he enjoyed biographies and autobiographies. With the rise in email usage we probably won't see "The Letters of..." books, at least not at the level of book compilations of handwritten or hand typed letters. I place a premium on letters.

Certainly I have correspondence from many people I have not and will not share publicly. What saddened me about Neil's response was that he destroyed the hard copy letters in his possession. I get it. I respect his right to do that. But it's sad. That's a historical record of a significant man that's gone forever.

As for the disposition of my memorabilia? At some point, if Neil's wife and/or daughter are interested in it I will give it to them - no strings attached.

It is, to me, an interesting topic; one on which I empathize with both sides. My tendency with one-of-a-kind materials, such as personal letters, is not to destroy them in haste. Maybe destroying them sometimes makes the most sense. But you can destroy things once only. It's worthwhile making sure the destruction doesn't happen in the heat of a moment. Better to act with reason while calm.

Thank you. // skf
 

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