Monday, February 28, 2005

Benvenuta, Erika!

I believe the newest member of this blog deserves a special introduction. At age 22, Erika has the distinction of being the youngest member of our group; but she is also the only one I have never met in person, the only one (thus far, at least) who resides outside the United States, and the only one for whom English is not her native language (although one reading her posts without knowing anything else about her might not be aware of that. Erika is, by the way, a university student in Finland.) I have decided to give her special mention because by joining us, she is typifying some of the ways the Internet in general, and blogging in particular, have revolutionized how we socialize and interact with each other.

About two years ago, Matthew Pearl published a novel called The Dante Club -- which, incidentally, I recommend to one and all, but that is a subject I should perhaps treat all by itself in a separate post. He set up a website devoted to the book; and the website includes a Dante discussion forum, which in turn features a message service available to members of the forum. Erika signed on to the forum last summer, a few months after I did; and soon we were exchanging messages back and forth, through the 8000 or so miles of cyberspace that lay between us. I was immediately impressed by her command of English, which I think is truly remarkable -- and which, in view of the deficiencies of public education and the decline of reading in general among the younger population here in the United States, would still be remarkable even if Erika were an American. Her obviously formidable intellect and appealing personality, which are both apparent even on the written page, likewise impressed me. I got a huge kick out of our correspondence, and soon began looking for her messages each time I logged on to the Dante forum; and then I became genuinely concerned when several months passed without a word from her. Finally, I heard from her again just the other day, when she informed me that a couple of mishaps, including her father's accidentally dropping and breaking her laptop, had put her out of cyber-circulation for a time. I immediately invited her to join the blog, which I had wanted to do ever since I set it up late last month; and now she is here among us, to add her own brand of sparkle and wit to the musings and ruminations of our merry band. I sent my mass e-mails from Italy because I felt that an experience that wonderful should be shared as widely as possible, and it was in a similar spirit that I invited Erika to become one of I miei cari amici.

Incidentally, I have invited one other member of the Dante forum to join the blog as well, and I hope we will likewise be hearing from her sometime in the near future. Meanwhile, I invite one and all to give Erika a warm and affectionate welcome, and then to enjoy and savor her contributions to our group.

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