Monday, February 4, 2008

Four Letter Word

Original Love Letters, Edited by Joshua Knelman & Rosalind Porter.

Quickie recap: A selection of outstanding authors including Leonard Cohen, Miriam Toews, Audrey Niffeneggeter, Joseph Boyden, Douglas Coupland and Margaret Atwood all contribute original, fictional love letters.

Quickie review: Oh my, writers are full of shit. Just full of it. I mean, they each receive a plea to send in a love letter, and each one thinks, hey, I'm a Big Important Writer. I'm going to show everyone how brilliant and original I am by re-interpreting the mandate. I'm so impressive I can't possibly write just a love letter, I have to be clever and unexpected. Except all writers are full of shit. They all seem to have had the same idea. Pity too, because time and again, the greatest pieces of writing in this book are the actual honest-to-goodness love letters. But you know what? They're all pretty amazing, even the pieces of shit are amazing. Even the Coupland is amazing! And there are some pieces in here with such fervent, inspired writing that I have felt compelled to jot down some names. In fact, a couple of them were so insanely good that I was almost dumb-founded to have never heard of them before, and thankful to have the chance to do so. I laughed, I cried, I thought about the word love and what exactly it means. I thought about the love letters I have written, and those I've received, and those I will be inspired to send in the near-future. I got lost, very lost, in a very good book. I buzzed through it and when finished I felt sad and lonely for about 10 seconds before I realized I could simply start over again, and so I did....and many of them are even better with the second reading. It may only be February, but I guarantee that this book will remain in my top reads of 2008. I liked it for its lack of schmaltz. I loved it for its wit, its lament, its yearning, its accuracy. Oh, the accuracy, the heart-breaking accuracy.

Quickie recommendation: This is not chick lit. This is not lovey-dovey. This is a work of art and you'd be stupid to let it go to someone else.

Quickie plug: Join Operation Love Letter if you dare.


Pomgirl said...

I bought this book during a sale at the library I used to work in. It cost me 40p and has become one of my favourite books - so beautiful. Sometimes I felt it was a little bit wrong for me to be reading these letters, and then I would read lines such as these by James Joyce:

"I offended two men today by leaving them coolly. I wanted to hear your voice, not theirs."

and want to hug myself with delight.

Lianne said...

Hey, great review. I know your reviews are probably too "salty" to be in newspapers, but I wish they were. You tell it like it is. I probably never would have made a connection to this book on my own, but having read your review, not only is it on my list, but I'm moving it straight to the top.

Mark said...

Sounds like a fascinating book.

I have some old love letters that a girl sent me after camp back in 7th grade. She was a year older -- and more experienced. She decorated the envelopes with colored marker drawings. Not one bit of plain paper remained after she was finished. I wish I could find them and scan them into the computer to show folks how letter writing was before the days of e-mail.

I still treasure a hand-written letter above all other forms of communication.

Liz said...

Aw, my friend just sent me your link, and she's right, this sounds like a super good book and I can't wait to dive right into it! Thanks for telling us all about it.

David said...

Cool. I think I'll pick this up for my wife for Vday. I hope she likes it half as much as you did!

Anonymous said...

you should try anything from Diane Schoemperlen - "Language of Love" "Our Lady of the Lost and Found" "Red Plaid Shirt" - think you might like