In Permission we read a sequence of emails from a female letter-writer who identifies herself first by the initials FW, then as F. Wren, and eventually Fearn Wren, to an unnamed male filmmaker/writer who is told in the first letter that responses and acknowledgements aren’t needed: “That is to say, I want nothing in return, nothing tangible—only permission to continue this spectral writing, so disembodied and out of place, so easily disavowed.” In the preamble to the book, a narrator (possibly Wren, since as time goes on she mentions that these letters are a book) outlines how the letters were sent at regular intervals and speculates on what the recipient, at one point called “Dr. Nettle,” would make of the one-sided correspondence: “One imagines also that initially he was too put off by their intellectual arrogance and posturing to have genuine interest in them.” There would also be “increasingly cursory attention” paid to the notes.
Towards the end of the book, slightly over nine months since the first email in July 2007, Wren writes that
“it would not surprise me if you once felt closer to me than you do today. Without knowing a thing about me, you might have even thought me a kindred spirit. But now—now that I have made my strangerhood explicit—I feel you do not know what to make of me anymore. And could I expect you to trust anyone under a false name—this ludicrous moniker that may or may not have roots in a fondness for ferns (!) and wrens (!), ferns and wrens (!)? Personally, I would not trust such a person.”