Books About Letters: "Write for Your Life"
Updated: May 2
Hello! Liz here. I'm delighted to bring you a very special edition of "Books About Letters" this March. What makes it so special? Good question! Thank you for asking. This month's selection "Write for Your Life" just happens to have a chapter which readers of the Flea Market Love Letters archive may find very familiar! Thank you Anna for including the archive, Rachel for the introduction, Penguin Random House for including the Harry & Sandy letters and fundamentally thank you, dear reader.
As some may recall in 2021 I garnered a bit of press for my Pandemic hobby of near compulsive letter writing. I started finding the penpals -- which at its height numbered some 88 -- thanks to Rachel Syme's "Penpalooza". It came to pass that in Anna's research for this book, Rachel introduced her to the Flea Market Love Letters archive -- and I in turn introduced Anna to Dinah of the The Handwritten Letter Appreciation Society -- and thus the "Salutation" chapter was ever so lovingly crafted and brought into this world.
So does "Write for Your Life" tick the compulsory boxes to qualify as a "Book About Letters"? You betcha! And, it's nice to see a Non-Fiction book back among the running -- not since our "84 Charring Cross Road" reading. With lines like:
"Letters are different today than they were when they were a necessity. In the twenty-first century I do not send a letter because I want to tell you something. I do it because I want to give you something, something personal and long lasting. There's a reason why we always envision a cache of letters tied up with a ribbon. It's because they are a gift." (43)
You have to agree that Quindlen not only understands the compulsion to write a letter but forms a strong persuasion for why. And for that I extend my gratitude not just for being included, but for Quindlen's earnest endeavor to keep the letter alive:
"I guess I always figured there would be more letters, endless letters." (42-3)
Harry & Sandy in Print:
There's something very, very surreal about standing on the Luas (our tram here in Dublin) and reading a chapter in a printed book in which your project is featured. To see the words of Harry & Sandy in print in this tangible, very real -- and very lovely, bound copy -- book I almost felt vertigo. It was only five years ago that their letters were "just" on my bookshelf. And a number of months before, in November, that those letters were "just" for sale at a Flea Market I happened to visit for my Birthday.
For so long those letters were between Harry and Sandy, then through a chain of actions they ended up in a printed book that folks will pick up and read for not weeks or months like a Tweet or YouTube video, but literal years. This book will be on shelves in sitting rooms around the world and given as Christmas or Birthday gifts for years to come. Libraries will hold copies of this book, and for a few pages there nestled in the creamy paper are Harry and Sandy, forever immortalized. For as Anna so rightly says:
"The ordinary stories are sometimes the most illuminating of our lives because the simply factual can lead us to the deeply philosophical. They allow us to stop time, to preserve not only who we are but who we once were." (184)
Win a Copy!
We're delighted to be hosting a giveaway for your very own edition of "Write for Your Life" by Pulitzer Prize winning author Anna Quindlen (ends Sunday April 24th 11:00am GMT).
Get in Touch.
Do you have a book in mind about letters you think I should read and review for "Books About Letters"? Let me know! Send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.