February 2015, and I am here (finally!) to share a book which I bought myself for Christmas 2014 – a little self-love J. Yes, it has been a busy January but better late than never because I am compelled.
Title: Letters of Note: Correspondence Deserving of a Wider Audience
Compiled: Shaun Usher
Publisher: Canongate Books Ltd & Unbound (24 October 2013)
Website: http://www.lettersofnote.com/ & www.shaunusher.com
Pages: Hardback, 384 pages
Genre: Literary Non-Fiction, Anthology
What’s it about?
This is an anthology of letters from the 17th century to present day written by a myriad of personalities including the likes of Zelda Fitzgerald, Albert Einstein, Mick Jagger and Roald Dahl.
These letters compiled by Shaun Usher were selected from a vast number of online contributions (see website above) consisting of different types of letters ranging from humorous to angry, sentimental to dispassionate letters, and in different contexts. They provide deeper insights to the events of history and the people we thought we knew so much of.
This is a book filled with beautiful words, expressions, styles; and worth having a copy if only for posterity.
To quote the website’s blurb about the book:
Letters of Note is a collection of 125 of the world’s most entertaining, inspiring and unusual letters.
From Virginia Woolf’s heart-breaking suicide letter, to Queen Elizabeth II’s recipe for drop scones sent to President Eisenhower; from the first recorded use of the expression ‘OMG’ in a letter to Winston Churchill, to Gandhi’s appeal for calm to Hitler; and from Iggy Pop’s beautiful letter of advice to a troubled young fan, to Leonardo da Vinci’s remarkable job application letter, Letters of Note is a celebration of the power of written correspondence which captures the humour, seriousness, sadness and brilliance that make up all of our lives.
And it is indeed the case.
And here’s an excerpt from a letter from Rebecca West to HG Wells. To understand the context, the book provides the background story. In this instance, HG Wells invited Rebecca West to dinner in response to her scathing review of his book, ‘Marriage’ in 1912. They met and fell in love, and went on to have an affair which lasted 11 years. This letter was West’ response when HG Wells’ attempted to break out their relationship about a year into the affair.
I don’t understand why you wanted me three months ago and don’ wan me now…Of course, you’re quite right. I haven’t anything to give you. You have only a passion for excitement and for comfort. You don’t want any more excitement and I do not give people comfort….
I always knew that you would hurt me to death some day, but I hoped to choose the time and place…I can’t conceive of a person who runs about lighting bonfires and yet nourishes a dislike of flame: that seems silly to me.
… I know you will derive immense satisfaction from thinking of me as an unbalanced young female who flopped about in your drawing room in an unnecessary heart-attack.
…But I hate you when you try to cheapen the things I did honestly and cleanly…You once found my willingness to love you a beautiful and courageous thing. I still think it was. Your spinsterishness makes you feel that a woman desperately and hopelessly in love with a man is an indecent spectacle and a reversal of the natural order of things. But you should have been too fine to feel like that.
I wish you have loved me. I wish you liked me.
Now doesn’t that give a certain insight to this relationship and perhaps to HG Wells, the man? Doesn’t it cause your imagination to take flight?
As an aside, this book began as a blog (see website above) by Shaun Usher, wanting to share what he considered to be correspondence deserving a wider audience. The book compilation was published by Unbound, a crowd-sourced publisher, and Canongate.
If you enjoy or love the written word, then you can’t miss this book. It is a book you can flip open, even if you have only 5 minutes to spare, and find yourself moved by the sentiments. You will be inspired to find within yourself that expression of your soul.
Long live the art of letter-writing.
Realistic Characterization: N/A
Made Me Think: 4/5
Overall enjoyment: 4/5
Overall Rating: 4/5
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8 thoughts on “#BookWorm @FTThum Review of Letters of Note by @LettersOfNote”
It sounds truly amazing and the letter is indeed an eye-opener. It’s a bit of a shame that we’ve lost the art of writing letters (writing e-mails isn’t the same…) Thanks for the recommendation Florence
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Wow! This book sounds absolutely great – just my sort of thing! Thanks so much for luring me in, for sharing your enthusiasm, for reuniting me with a genre I read avidly in my twenties…
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I love the idea of getting to see the truth of personalities revealed in personal correspondence. You piqued my interest.
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So do I,and the differing perspectives 🙂
Mine too ( piqued) I have some letters written to George Eliot about her stepson’s death which might have fitted into this. Instead I should write a book about the circumstances that led to that tragic death. I quite agree about the demise of the handwritten letter, having received just such a thing this week and the insights it afforded.
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