Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Julie Otsuka | When the Emperor Was Divine | 2003

Dear Girl,

First of all, I hope that you are doing well. You were always so headstrong and independent. After you got out of the internment camp, you seemed to have lost all your spunk and your liveliness. The last time I saw you, I recall not being able to see any sparkle in your eyes. I did see though, how much more independent you have become. Is it because you feel like you cannot depend on anyone else anymore? You were forced out of your home and everything changed. Your dad was gone. He was taken away from you and could not be there to protect you. You know that it was not his fault. He did not ask to be taken away in the middle of the night, without any time to change out of his bathrobe and slippers. You acted indifferent about your father and that you re ally did not care whether he was gone or not. You told Ted Ishimoto that your dad never wrote you any letters. That was a lie. I know that you are angry and hurt, but I think that you need to forgive your father. He really does care for you. If he could, I know that he would never want to leave your side. He loves you.

In the camps, you never wanted to spend any time with your mom or your brother. You were always off with your friends: dancing, playing bingo, jump roping, secretly smoking. Did you also feel betrayed by your mother? Like your father, you wanted her to be there to protect you. She was supposed to maintain the home and create a safe, happy place to live. That internment camp was not a home. She made you and your brother pack your belongings and leave your house. She was the one who took you away to that awful place. I hope you understand that she could not prevent it from happening; it was a governmental order. She could not break the law, but please realize that if she had the power, she would never wish for this to happen to you.

I bet you felt frustrated all the time. You were going through puberty at the time and you felt awkward and uncomfortable. You were struggling with newfound feelings and your body was changing. Not only were you struggling with the pain of puberty, but you also felt the weight of an inner turmoil that most kids your age never had to deal with. You were ashamed of your ethnicity, your heritage, and your face. Why did you have to be different? Why did everyone hate you? Why did you have to be Japanese? At the time, you would have given anything to be anyone else. Once again you blamed your parents. From the beginning, everything that happened was their fault. They were the reason you were so despised in the first place. They were the ones who made you Japanese. Please learn to forgive them, but most of all please learn to love yourself. You are beautiful. You always talk about how pretty you think your mother is and if she is as lovely as you say, because she is your mother, you are every ounce as lovely as she is.

Girl, take my words into consideration. All I want is to see that sparkle come back in your eyes. Please take care so that maybe one day I can see you exactly as you were before.

Best regards,
Stephanie Rabino

Kent Haruf | Plainsong | 1999

Dear Ella,

​Have you thought of seeking professional help? I don’t mean to come on so strong so I apologize in advance. However, you are a fictional character therefore I will just say what is on my mind. You are not obligated to tell the world of readers out here what exactly is going on in your personal life, but we are nosy and would like some additional information. I have the feeling that you feel as if you married the wrong person and that you are not upset that you are a mother to two wonderful boys, but that perhaps the picture perfect family wasn’t precisely what you wanted to shape your life around. Did you marry Guthrie too soon? Do you feel as if it is impossible to make him understand from where you are coming? I think I am correct when I say that you love Ike and Bobby. They are beautiful boys. You should be proud! I understand that it is hard to judge someone else’s situation unless you have had an identical obstacle yourself. I am not a mother. I am not married. I do not want to run away from everything to which I am attached. However, as a young woman with a wild spirit that cannot be tamed, I have fallen in love before only to want to run away from everything good just because I had to try and I didn’t have the emotional drive to do so. I know what it is like to know the guidelines of how to feel and act and not be able, for all the money in the world, to loyally abide by them at heart.I’ve been depressed before, believe it or not! There have been times when sunlight made me want to cry. Waking up was the most tiring activity on the planet. When you are depressed, sleep is a temporary escape. Running away and starting things anew can seem like the only promising thing, but what happens when things start going bad again? Most certainly, they will with the cycle of life. What you need to know is that there is a way out. This is not a terminal illness. Even if things do not work out with Guthrie you have two sons who need and miss their mother more than she will ever know. There are two people who love you unconditionally. You do not need to be preached to, but to be helped. Know that you are not a bad or malfunctioning individual. I sympathize with you. There is a way to get back to feeling healthy and like the Ella you know. If there is one thing you can do for your sons, it is talking openly with a person who is not judgmental. Will you think about it?

Sincerely yours,
Miss Myca Jester

Margaret Wise Brown | Goodnight Moon | 1947

Dear Quiet Old Lady,

You were always old. Were you ever young? Or were you born a Jungian crone?

And reliable, oh yes, you were reliable. I never had to go to sleep alone, you were always by my bed.

It was comforting in a way, that predicability. No matter how awful the day, no matter what horrors it held, I could rely on you to hush me to sleep.

Hush me to sleep. Keep me quiet. So the awful days could keep coming.

Whisper me hush, wise old woman. I know what tomorrow brings.

Gillian King

Monday, October 25, 2010

Message From the Proprietors: How to Hate

The Library Science Degree blog has just posted a list of the fifty most hated characters in literature. The kids from Twilight top the list, though in doing so, they demonstrate that there's a thin line between love and hate (cf. Holden Caulfield who's at #3). Iago's fifth, Humbert Humbert is sixteenth, and Satan is all the way down at #50. How do you feel about unsympathetic characters? Are they villains? Do they need to be? Can self-centered behavior and overexposure convert a character from a flawed hero or heroine into something more malignant? Several of the hated characters have been featured here; others have thus far escaped unscathed. Go, look at the list, then come back here and write a letter to that character--or any other character who gets under your skin/gets your goat/gets your blood boiling.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Michael Ondaatje | Anil's Ghost | 2000

Dear Gunesena,

I know it's been a while since our last encounter. Guess what? We have a mutual friend, do you remember Anil? Check this out, so Anil and I were talking and she told me about her work as a forensic anthropologist and as she proceeded to tell me about her adventure, your name popped up in the conversation. I know its been some time Gunesena, but why didn't you tell me what happen to you? I know all about how she found you laying on the tarmac with nails in your hands. She didn't go into depth, but why did this happen to you? Do you know the people that did it? Have you seen this type of torture done to anyone else? Why did you trust Anil and Sarath enough to get into their vehicle? I have plenty more questions, but my main concern is you. Let’s reunite and rekindle our friendship again. I worry about you. Please keep in touch.

Your friend,
Arielis Hernandez

Michael Ondaatje | Anil's Ghost | 2000

Linus Corea,

My dad once said to me that “you will know what love is when you have your first child...that child will mean the world to you.” Most people are raised to be that way, that is, loving your family. You Gaimini, you have a family but you love your job more than your children and your wife. Everyone wants a job that they can enjoy, a job that they are good at instead of a job that ends up in day-to-day misery.

You wrote the annonymous letter that was sent to your family, didn't you? The letter that said “If you wish to see me again, come with the children. If you do not wish to, I will understand.” Eight months you waited to contact your family. And when they finally arrive at the base hospital where you were held, your sleep was more important then your family that you havent seen in EIGHT months. Anyone else would be ecstatic, but you, you couldn't care less. Being a neurosurgeon, preforming surgery, leaving your family behind. You said it yourself right in front of your wife and kids: "It's my life.” I think there is something wrong with that equation. From what I was told, your kids should be your life.

Carlos Estrella

Message From the Proprietors: Letters With Character In the Schools

Letters With Character is more than an entertaining way of connecting readers with the books they love. It is a valuable learning tool. Recently, students in Helen Kapstein's Introduction to Modern Literature class at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, CUNY, used the site to respond to Michael Ondaatje's novel Anil's Ghost. We will be posting a selection of those letters periodically over the next week. They can be read either in the flow of the overall blog, or by clicking this special capital-letter LINK. Thank you.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

J.D. Salinger | Franny & Zooey | 1961

Dear Franny,

I know, sweetheart. I know how you feel. I left school because I was surrounded by people who failed to recognize their potential as human beings. They nattered on and on about the most insubstantial things, and they could not see past the end of their egotistical noses, and more than once I felt queasy when I stared down at a chicken sandwich, inane prattle ringing in my ears. But I promise you that there are still people who are bright and good and kind. I promise you that there are girls just like you, who have curled up on couches and pulled the blankets up to their ears and slept for days just so they wouldn't have to remember what a heartbreaking world we live in. I promise it will get better--not because everyone around you will get better, but because you will find the strength in you to carry on being polite and brave and wise in spite of the wreckage. But if you want it to get better, sweetheart, you have to get up and do something about it.

Drink your chicken soup, think of the Fat Lady, and hug your brother - he doesn't mean to shout.

With love,
C. M. Dougan

Jane Austen | Pride and Prejudice | 1813

Dear Miss Elizabeth,

When I received your latest letter, I had formed no expectation at all of its contents. But such as it was, it may well be supposed how eagerly I went through it and what a contrareity of emotion it excited.

My feelings as I read are scarcely to be defined. I read, with an eagerness which hardly left me power of comprehension, and from impatience of knowing what the next sentence might bring, I was incapable of attending to the sense of the one before my eyes.

Your kind enquiries for the health of my aunt and sisters aroused my warm appreciation, but when this subject was succeeded by your account of future engagements, my feelings were more acutely painful and more difficult of definition. Astonishment, apprehension and even horror, oppressed me. I wished to discredit it entirely, repeatedly exclaiming, "This must be false! This cannot be!"

In this perturbed state, I took a walk, with thoughts that could rest on nothing. But it would not do, in half a minute I was unfolding the letter again and, collecting myself as best I could, pursuing the mortifying perusal of the future engagements that will preclude you from joining us for tea this coming fortnight.

I do see that our humble abode, our plain manner of living, our small rooms and the little we see of the world would make us extremely dull to a young lady like yourself. But I do hope that you will believe us grateful for your company and know that we would do every thing in our power to prevent your spending your time unpleasantly.

A grain of hope remains the only solace for my wretchedness, the hope that a narrow opening in your future engagements might give us the grace of your company. This would be an extraordinary kindness to brighten the hopes of my heart.

I remain yours sincerely,
Gillian King

Colum McCann | Let the Great World Spin | 2009


I want to cover your bruises and wash your t-shirts and make cupcakes in your kitchen. I want to leave notes on your doorway; I want to walk the streets of the Bronx with you; I want to bring coffee to the hookers and kiss the feet of strangers with you. I want to make you feel so completely and utterly loved, because it’s how you make others feel, and you don’t ask for it back. How is that? How do you do it? How do you love the world that turns its back? You said the meek might actually want it someday. I think they do, but I think it’s because you give them strength. The world is very big, but it’s also very small, but I think you know that. I want you to know that after the crash, it went on, it kept spinning, but your finger prints were still all over it, sticky and sweet.

You give me hope in the heart of people,

Thursday, October 7, 2010

John Steinbeck | The Grapes of Wrath | 1939

Dear Ma,

How do you do it? Your family (or shall I say "fambily") is falling to pieces and you still keep on truckin'. You're inner strength inspires me and though I don't always agree with some decisions made, I know that you doing the best thing for your people. When you fed those little children in the camp your left over stew, a tear nearly came to my eye. It was so selfless. You are so caring and (even though the family and in particular Pa) may drive you a little crazy sometimes, your bark is worse than your bite. You are far too kind hearted. You would starve yourself in order for the family to be more comfortable. Heck, after realizing you slept next to a dead body for close to a day, I believe your powers are limitless! So Ma, just stick to your guns and don't let those men push you around too much. Stay strong!!

All the best of luck,
Stephanie F.

David Almond | Skelling | 1998

Dear Joy,

Your life has just begun and, yet, already you have been through so much. You were born then your heart began to fight against you. But you never gave up. You kept fighting. Just remember that. Never give up in life. Always keep fighting. And remember, as Mina would tell you…..You are extraordinary.

Always have hope,
Kaytlen Ainley

Homer | The Iliad | 800 B.C.

Dear Hector:

It's time you stopped to rethink all that family loyalty and personal honor crap you keep spouting every time you wander into Troy from another lengthy conversation with someone whom you've just degutted on the battlefield. Face it, the Scaean gates have more malleability than your sense of duty. After watching you out on the field of battle today, I've decided to butt in where I may not be welcome.

I have to ask, do you really think telling Andromache you'd rather be dead than see her and little Astyanax enslaved and sent into bondage was a really excellent example of your moral rectitude? I don't think she felt the love on that one, bubba. Really? It kind of made you look like a coward. The only answer you can think of to avoid humiliation is to die? Nice one.

Your wife would probably prefer you dump the flashing helmet, grab a few gold trinkets out of the treasure house to pawn on the journey, maybe even the robe your mom wasted placating Athena (she hates your brother's guts, you know. Not all the robes in Phthia will change THAT bitch's mind) and get your family the hell outta Dodge.

I know Priam thinks you're tits. He's constantly holding you up to your other bros as an example of perfection. It must be hard to be yourself with all that kingly pressure to perform on your shoulders, but let's be realistic here. We're talking about fighting Achilles! The dude's half god, and even if his Goddess mom does cross-dress him every once in a while, he's still a killer
underneath. Forget all that whiney-baby stuff he pulled after you wasted his boy-toy Patroclus; that just pissed him off more. He's coming for you, bud, and you'll never be ready, no matter how many libations you pour.

Why don't you pick up your kid and take the little lady by the hand and slip out the back door while there's still time? Your cousin Aeneas is gonna do it, and he'll get an entire epic named after him! Who knows? Maybe tending goats and sheep incognito would be an okay gig--it's better than the alternative. I'll let you in on a secret: Even Achilles will regret his decision to stay and fight after he actually sees what's in store for him down at Hade's place.

Hector, you're the best of them all. I know Homer tried to make Achille's the big kahuna, but you're really the hero of the piece, but when tomorrow comes and that old reprobate Zeus holds up those golden scales, you'll be a really dead hero; your wife will soon be sleeping in some Greek dude's bed; your kid will be as dead as you, tossed off those walls you're so intent on
protecting, and your old man will be food for dogs. Don't be a horse's ass.

Get out while there's still time. Duty's really not all it's cracked up to be,. Ask me, I know. Just say no. Choose life.

JP Reese

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Nicole Krauss | The History of Love | 2005

Dear Leo,

I wish it was me sitting next to you on that bench. I wish I was the one who found you. I wish I could be there, listening to your heart-breaking story. I wish your heart would not break.

Would you be my friend, Leo? Like Bruno is to you? I'll slip a letter under your door. You'll stare at it, wondering whose it could be. You'll slowly get out of your bed, go round the toilet and the kitchen table and bend down clumsily to pick it up. I’ll invite you for a drink. A juice, of course. If I don’t have change, I’ll know you’ll lend me some, you always have plenty of it (I hope I won’t have to pick it up from the floor first). And then … No posing, please. But we could take some dance lessons, stepping on people’s feet? Oh, no, right, you have a weak heart. What about singing? A duo in front of the NYSE, performing “Over the Rainbow” and blowing soap bubbles? Or … we could try to get people to help us measure the Central Park with toothpicks? Or ask them to contribute some money for our raft expedition to Ellis Island? Or let a hippo out of the zoo? Or, my dear Leo, you could simply unlock and let me in. Let me see you. Let me look back into the heart of Europe with you. Let me follow you across those monstrous waves of war and separation. Let me close that pipe and bring the true characters of your book back. Let me tell Alma what happened. Let me caress the glass, admiring its frail substance, its transparency, its honesty. LetmeinLeo.Letmemakeabondbetweenyou&me. What will you get in return, you probably wonder? My reflection in the glass ...

Unlock your heart, Leo. But be careful. Don’t break it.

Yours sincerely,
Katja Zupan

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

William Goldman | The Princess Bride | 1973

Dear Buttercup,

As much as I love your one true love, Westley, I think you’re probably one of the most annoying people I’ve ever met. Well, written to. Did you know that every time he said “As you wish” that he was really saying “I love you?” No. You were too busy making him do things that didn’t even need to be done. And you named your horse “Horse.” Westley is so much smarter than you. Please try to be as cool as he is. You’re kind of like Daphne from Scooby Doo (although Scooby Doo hadn’t been invented yet), except for your outfits probably cost a lot more. You’re always in trouble and Westley always has to get you out of it. Why couldn’t you have ridden closer to the castle? Why couldn’t you have freaking watched where you were going in the Fire Swamp? Snow Sand is deadly, you know. It KILLS PEOPLE. Like WESTLEY.

I think the smartest thing you could do in this situation would be to give Westley up. More specifically, give him to me. Give him my phone number and he can call me, because he needs to find a woman who isn’t such a bumbling idiot.

Rebecca McCrory

Homer | The Iliad | c. 1200 B.C.

Dear Andromache,

I’m so sorry you have to go through the loss of Hector even before he dies in battle. Knowing something is gone as it is standing right before you is heartbreaking. I myself watched family battle for their lives, knowing what they were doing would leave them dead. They too thought what they were doing would bring glory. Please stay strong as I did; one day we will both be queens.

Mo Zajac

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Arnaldur Indriðason | Arctic Chill | 2005

Dear Detective Erlendur,

I am on a beach. Does that make you mad? No snowstorms, no horses, no murders, no mothers who can't make a go of it. I couldn't be further from your world and yet I feel close.


Tuesday, September 7, 2010

William Gibson | Idoru | 1996

Dear Colin,

I think I can see nodes, too. I mean, I used to be able to. I saw some of the things we are experiencing now.

I would like to get in touch with you but am worried that we won't be in contact before we are found out.

While I was typing this letter a man walked by me and then walked by me a second time. I wonder if he knows that I am writing to you.

I do not know what Rez is doing either. It seems like a bad idea at best. But are there good ideas? Or are there just ideas that are turned to good (or bad) ends?

I'm not that much older than Chia. Am I? I'm not that much younger than I'll be.

Send help,
Kathleen Jensen

Friday, September 3, 2010

John G. Schneider | The Golden Kazoo | 1956

Dear Blade Reade,

You tried every trick to get your candidate elected. I commend you. But what would you do if you were alive today? Would you have gone to work for Obama? For Romney? I have a feeling maybe Palin, because that's where the real Golden Kazoo is.

John Lewis

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Jonathan Swift | Gulliver's Travels | 1726

My dear Lemuel,

I hope this epistle finds you in the best of health and humour for I have unfortunate news. I have striven to the best of my abilities, but try as I might I have been unable to convince my employer to publish your Travels Into Several Remote Nations Of The World in its current form. My superiors believed it not to be an instructional guide as you intended, but instead a flight of fancy.

A series of researches was ordered to seek references from similar works in the hope that they might be able to corroborate your assertions. There are naturally scores of mentions of Japan available to us, and we were successful in finding a single obscure allusion to a flying island which may or may not be the Laputa which you mention.
Despite our best efforts we can find no proof of the existence of the countries of Lilliput, Blefuscu, Brobdingnag, Balnibarbi, Luggnagg, Glubbdubdrib or that of the Houyhnhnms.

I am sorry to be required to inform you, that without some form of evidence of these nations, we will be forced to publish this text as a work of fiction instead. I look forward to hearing from you.

Please pass on my best wishes to Mary, the children and your Cousin Sympson.

Yours sincerely,
David Black

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Samuel Beckett | Waiting for Godot | 1953

Dear Estragon,

Vladimir must go. He is a chatterbox and thinks too much of himself. He has not had blows rain down around his head -- ach, his precious head! He doesn't know a thing about the foot, the boot, or the poet.

Pale with weariness,

Bram Stoker | Dracula | 1897

My Dearest Mina,

I know you are busy in Roumania being both Jonathan's wife and nurse, but I couldn't help wanting to distract you from your task for a few moments. Things are becoming awfully strange back home, and I must admit that your marriage has caused conflicting emotions to possess me. What of Lucy? I know you felt very grown up and affectionate while you watched her embroiled courtship from the stronghold of your own engagement, but did you ever really ask why it happened the way it did? Did you not notice that it was after your own engagement that she rushed into hers, and seemed so immediately consumed with the desire to know the same state of possession? All those years of being so close, of sharing those secrets in your shared bed... Lucy missed you enough, Mina, that she thought only a man's proposal could erase the difference your engagement set between you.

I'm sorry, but I must tell you that she is suffering from the acquaintance of a certain gentleman, who is no stranger to your husband. Dr Steward has brought in a foreign expert who seems to be going about things the right way, but every time her condition seems likely to improve, some sad coincidence leaves her vulnerable to further attack. As a result of this she has now had the blood of three men - both doctors and the Texan - siphoned into her veins, without the knowledge of her fiancé. Mina, Lucy is in the hands of men I do not entirely trust - especially the doctors, one of whom fosters lunatics and is tempted by delusions of grandeur, the other with a mad wife whom he has locked away somewhere while he gallivants around England tending to unmarried and under-clothed young women.

My Darling, Lucy has been lost since the moment they diagnosed her. All I can do is beg you to be careful when you return - these men have insinuated their very essences into Lucy's body, and I believe they will not hesitate to destroy her in the name of restoring her purity. So please, keep records of everything - do not let a stray remark from them escape you. Do not trust Jonathan to keep you safe - if it is not their blood they use to ensnare you, it will be their tears, and he will aid them.

Oceans of Love,
Rose Edwards

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Booth Tarkington | The Magnificent Ambersons | 1918

Dear George,

Be careful, okay? When you do things without thinking, those things come back at you with an equal thoughtlessness and ruthlessness. I always remember the advice Lucy gave you during that fight when she explained to you that people have their noses in the air, how "Little Mr. Pembroke" was six-foot-three. Treat everyone with respect and everyone will treat you the same. Even your mother. I also have to say that even though there were times in the book that I liked you, it would never work between us. You are too used to girls looking radiant when you dance with them.


Monday, August 30, 2010

Various Authors | The Old Testament | 1000 B.C.

Dear Noah,

I know that many people have asked you about this, but what about fish? And if birds flew away, did they always come back? I'm guessing not, since the dove that returned with an olive branch was such a big-deal sign of land ho (also, dove and olive branch are both symbols of peace--isn't this a little redundant?). And what about animals that got down and dirty with each other? Didn't you end up with a gigantic mess of zorses and mules and gironkeys and whatever else? And plants? Was there another ark in charge of plants? I am not skeptical, just real confused.

David Wallerstein

Monday, August 23, 2010

Suzanne Collins | The Hunger Games | 2008

Dear Peeta,

I'm not exactly sure where you are right now, but I hope this
letter finds you alive and well. I've been thinking about you a lot lately
and I can't wait to find out what happened to you after all that chaos. I
sincerely hope you can win over Katniss, she's stubborn, but trust me,
there's something there with you two that no one else could ever fully
understand, so use that! You deserve happiness and you're a truly
wonderful person, thanks for showing me people like you do exist.

Sarah Blake

Monday, August 16, 2010

Judy Blume | Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret | 1970

Dear Margaret,

God sent me a message to give to you.

Don't be sorry. You're a good kid. Everything will work out just fine.

VL Sheridan

Frederick Barthelme | Waveland | 2009

Dear Vaughn,

I'm not clear that you like buildings, let alone love them. Isn't that a requirement for an architect? Also, you seem to have questionable taste in women. Is it part of giving up? Or are you reacting to how perfect your mother was? Greta might've killed someone, Gail went and got beaten by a guy who wrote on her neck. I am not a great woman, but I'm a great woman, if you know what I mean. Maybe we'd get along. Let's hop in the car and say.


Friday, August 6, 2010

Margaret Wise Brown | Goodnight Moon | 1947

To the Quiet Old Lady Whispering Hush,

You’re no lady. You’re a bunny. Have we become so politically correct that we can no longer call a bunny a bunny?

Katherine Rosman

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Stephen King | The Stand | 1978

Dear Randall Flagg,

Ooh, I'm scared!

Lee Ann

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Harper Lee | To Kill A Mockingbird | 1960

Dear Scout's Mother,

I don't think you're ever named. Are you? You passed when Scout was two. That's a terrible age to lose a child. You lost Atticus, too, but many people marry a man or a woman with the knowledge that they will not always be by their side. People say it's easier to die before a child than to have a child die before you, but when a baby's that young and you pass away, it's like both things are happening at once. So did you watch from where you were? Did you see what happened to Scout and Jem and Dil? One thing, of course, is that even though Atticus had right on his side, I wonder if he would have been looked at differently if he had a strong, pretty wife next to him. Maybe you could have calmed Bob Ewell. At least you could have sat your daughter on her lap and heard her story.

Missing you,
Linda Peters

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Louise Fitzhugh | Harriet the Spy | 1964

Dear Harriet,

I couldn't agree more. Sport was a little old woman. In fact, he was a little old woman right down to the moment that he objected to your characterization. What a wrinkled old prune. He should have a walker. I don't really understand why you can't write private things about friends in a private book. You should. That way you get to work out your thoughts. Friends aren't perfect. They are just people you like or love, which means they are just people, which means that they are not perfect. Say hello to Ole Golly for me.


Monday, August 2, 2010

Will Self | The Sweet Smell of Psychosis | 1996

Dear Richard,

The last time I was in London, I didn't get the chance to meet "Pablo," and I was wondering if you could put in a good word for me at the Sealink? I'm good people, I promise. Of course, I wouldn't be surprised if you resolved to never again darken the place's doorstep, given the whole Ursula/Bell thing-- talk about a tryst!-- but look, I usually stay in my father’s bedsit in Forest Hill, and the people around there wouldn't know Pablo from Sanjeev, so I really need the connect.

Patrick Michael John

P.S. What kind of meds do they have you on now? Just curious.

Monday, July 26, 2010

William Faulkner | The Sound and the Fury | 1929

Dear Caddy,

A boy at acting camp (he was from Boston) compared me to you and said, Ali, you must read Faulkner so you can know Caddy, she has this innocence worth preserving. Maybe he said this because you and I are both from the South, and there they teach their girls to be sweet.

I was working on a monologue--Kay in Godfather II, the scene when she reveals her abortion and then Michael smacks her in the face--and he was directing me. He said, be broken, but I wasn't sure how to break.

I was 15 and liked the attention from an older boy would-be director who seemed to want to be my big brother, who saw something in me he wanted to keep safe. He didn’t really, though. Just like the boys in your life didn't really want to keep you safe. When they can’t sleep with you, they're suddenly very interested in the chivalrous version of themselves. Not that you were theirs to worry about anyway.

I'm retouching my lipstick on a train that's taking me to a show that I'm not performing in because I don't act.

I would advise the younger you to change your underpants, and not to let those boys do the talking for you. I don't have any advice for you now, you're probably doing all right. Stuck in a good book ain't a bad place to be. I should be asking you for advice. I imagine you're a fine actress.

Allison G. Yarrow

Vladimir Nabokov | Pale Fire | 1962

Dear Hazel Shade,

Wow, I wish we could have met. Gotten coffee or something. You were the most interesting character in the whole labyrinthine, genius, too-pretty-for-its-own-good perambulating book, and even the narrator seemed to kind of hate you. (I mean, whoever was the narrator at any given time. That book is some kind of fucked up.) And apparantly you talked to ghosts? That's so cool. If you'd stuck around long enough you'd see that weirdo outcast girls are the new rockstars. Emo, I think the word is. Blond skinny perky chicks still rule the universe, unfortunately. But we're getting there. We're getting there.

You would have been so awesome. You'd have loved _Six Feet Under_ and Lemony Snicket and Tim Burton and every Todd Solondz movie. You'd burn incense in your room and listen to the Magnetic Fields on Friday nights. You'd wear ankle-length skirts and shuffle down the halls, and kids would look at you with lots of awe because they knew you got into Wesleyan and could kick the shit out of them in Academic Bowl. And when you read Prozac Nation, which you could swear was your autobiography except for all the sex, you would learn that drowning is one of the least painful ways to die. Is that actually true? I know there's some debate over whether or not you did, in fact, kill yourself, but I'm not passing judgment. I'm just curious. We're all a little curious about the road not taken.

Actually I went on a blind date once. It didn't end as badly as yours did, but it still ended badly. This was when I was living in Baltimore with five roommates. I wasn't even set up. I was just like, You know what would be fun? So I wrote back to this Craigslist ad. My coworker did my hair and my makeup and all that. I was excited. And I met him and, first of all, we went to the fucking Inner Harbor. The Harbor is actually kind of cool, but we were in the part where there's like the Hard Rock Cafe and ESPNZone and outdoor concerts where they charge eight dollars for a Heineken. He didn't talk much, and I don't talk much, and anyway it was hard to hear. So we went into Barnes and Noble and walked around. I think I held out some ridiculous hope for a "Holy shit! We like the same obscure books! Let's go talk about them somewhere in Fells Point where booze is a little cheaper and get drunk and make out, so at least I'll have something cool to tell my roommates, all of whom think I lead a nerdy, fairly pedestrian life!" Well. We got as far as "Family Guy is still funny, even though we're supposed to be grown-ups." Then at about 7 PM (I'd left work at 5, remember) he said he had to head home and go to bed. In all fairness, I think he had just started a new job or something. But seriously. Seven o'clock. Home to bed. He didn't give me a ride, either. I had to take the bus.

He was a much nicer guy than Peter Provost, that ass who took you out. Peter was a dick. Your dad was a dick too. Do you get the theme that basically men are dicks? For real, Hazel. You should have hung on a little longer and wrote your own Pale Fire sendup/fuck-you book. Some Simone de Beauvoir/Margaret Atwood type of thing. Undergrad girls at hundreds of universities would get coffee stains on it. I would totally buy your book secondhand and loan it out to someone who would probably forget to bring it back.

Amy Bergen

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Daniyal Mueenuddin | In Other Rooms, Other Wonders | 2009

Dear Saleema,

Do you remember the first time Rafik spoke to you? He was in the shower on the other side of the wooden door of the stall where you were crying. The other men had treated you badly. Ask her what she hasn't done to me. And then you noticed the three bars of light above your head that filled you with hope.

My dog was restless last night, ears pricked when a bird called, when the leaves rustled beneath the dogwood tree, and I began to think about the way it was for me. Always the same. So little time. Always the leaving too soon.

At 10 past six, the same kind of light that gave you hope appeared like bars on the wall of my room. By 6:30 it shimmered like electricity, like water flickering in the paint farther to the right.

When you asked Rafik to tell you that he loved you once, I listened, hoping to understand, the way you must have when he said to you, "I did. I do. I loved you more." What does that mean, I loved you more? What could that possibly mean?

I want to tell you that the man I love is lying next to me. But he isn't. The man I love is neither here nor there. Do you know what he said to me? He said, I could never make you happy because I'll always turn out different from what you want me to be.

I am sorry, Saleema, that you turned to rocket pills and heroin. I am sorry. And I'm sorry for your boy. I think of him always when the sparrows clatter in the bamboo at the back of my fence. Their eyes so alert, their beaks and claws so busy.

Love always,

John Steinbeck | East of Eden | 1952

Dearest Samuel Hamilton,

When I think about characters who have a strong female following, I think of Mr Darcy. How many times have I heard someone express their feelings for him? Though I admit, he has his charms, he has always felt a bit...delicate? Other girls literary fantasies seem to be filled with Darcys and Pemberleys. As far as I'm concerned none of that has ever held a candle to you, and your dusty barren farm.

I know that technically you were a grandpa, and your beard was white. Who cares. What a sight you must have been alone on the road in the moonlight. I imagine you to be the type of man women think of as not existing anymore. A big strapping, HANDSOME man. A man who works hard all day, and smells of earth and sweat. A man who does what's right, because he would never think to do anything else. And you were ALIVE! So alive! Like your children, I feel that you could never die. I know your death is there, within the pages, but I refuse to believe it. I reject it completely.

I know that you loved Liza, and nothing would have changed that. That's one of the things I love about you. But I also wonder about that other girl, the one you fell in love with before Liza. I wish I knew what that girl was like so I could do my best to emulate her. Because whatever it was you loved about her, must have undeniably lovely. I wish I could have seen how blue your eyes were, or heard your voice when you were excited about a new idea, or heard you laugh (or seen you punch Adam Trask). If I had known you, I would have been in love with you, there's no doubt. I would have settled with being your friend. I am certain you would have been the best friend to have, and the fact that I am also certain you were the most handsome and wonderful man alive would just be a bonus.

Yours always,
E.A. Pervorse

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Beverly Cleary | Ramona Forever | 1984

Dear Beezus,

I'm sorry you've been turned into a teen-Disney Lolita with a romantic interest in Henry Huggins. That's not who you are.


You're the book-loving, beleaguered older sister who had to stand in the shadow of that erratic, trouble-making, attention-grabbing brat Ramona. Nobody noticed Beezus unless she was saving Ramona's ass. That sucks.

And now they have coated you with lipgloss and glitter to make you more appealing to a target demographic that grew up on Hannah Montana and worships Justin Bieber.

Damnit Beezus, it makes me mad. You're awesome just the way you are.

There are leagues of oldest sisters who adore and admire you, the real you. The Beezus who comes home from school on Friday and gets her homework done right away so she doesn't have to worry about it, the girl who likes to spend time curled into a big chair reading a book, the girl who doesn't see that her embroidering and craftiness is just as creative as Ramona with her imaginary pets.

Thank you, Beezus. Thank you for being the older sister we could relate to, the older sister who made us feel not so alone and unnoticed. You taught us how to handle the responsibilities thrust upon us at a young age with grace and maturity beyond our years. A role model, that;s what you've been to all the older sisters out there.
You're the best, Beezus, and I'm sorry if this movie sullies your image. I promise, we'll remember who you really are and carry that image with us forever.

Jodi Chromey

Harper Lee | To Kill a Mockingbird | 1960

Dear Boo,

I waited through the whole play to see you. Your name was in the program next to my brother’s, and I fidgeted in my seat in the high school auditorium, afraid, like everyone, of the man who wouldn’t come out of his house.

We weren’t close then, me and Dave. We spoke to each other mainly in the language of teenagers: trading record albums, passing the salt at dinner, throwing an elbow to the ribs on the way to the bathroom. But when I saw him come out of the little door on stage, his head hung low, his skin powdered white, I was proud. “Miss Jean Louise, would you take me home?” he said, his only line, and I started crying. I didn’t know that this mysterious person whose bedroom shared a wall with mine could be so meek and frightened and alone.

It’s funny how boo used to be just a scary word. You were a ghost, Boo, a friendly one who put a blanket around Scout and left little gifts for her in a tree. Boo is different now. I say “Boo, pass the sugar,” and “Do you want to go for a walk, little boo?” to my husband and my dog. It means honey, sweetie, love.

Thanks, Boo.

Gretchen VanEsselstyn

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Franz Kafka | The Metamorphosis | 1915

Dear Gregor,

I know you’re feeling low about losing your job, but you’d be the first to admit that your lame sales position was already a non-starter and that you didn’t like it much anyway. You still owe Herr Direktor a lot of money, so what can you do?

You are well aware that your family situation is currently somewhat unusual. I believe it is so unique, so compelling, that legions of people would be willing pay top dollar to see it live.

So, consider this: Insect Reality Theatre. My associates and I will provide your home with a glass façade, permitting a view of the interior. Tickets would be sold for daily performances only during specific hours. During this time, you and your family will simply go about your normal business. Before you refuse, please consider that for only a few hours of work per day, the Samsas will make a mint and become the toast of Prague!

Just think of those episodes when your father chased you around whipping apples at you, or when you accidentally wandered into the front room and scared those boarders. Those are moments of comedy gold for which you could be paid!

Moreover, Grete could provide the musical score on her violin. Don’t deny her this chance to perform in front of an audience. I’m also sure your temperamental parents would only love to get in on the act. Best yet, think of Herr Direktor’s jealous face when he sees all those fans lined up outside your house.

Gregor, don’t think of it as an exoskeleton--think of it as an opportunity.

I look forward to your response.

Sincerely yours,
Eddy Portnoy

Jorge Luis Borges | "The Library of Babel" | 1941

Dear Narrator,

I found that book you were looking for.

You can pick it up from the information desk on your way down.

Thank you for your patience.

Charles London

Monday, July 19, 2010

James Joyce | Ulysses | 1922

Dear Leopold Bloom,

I'm sure you're good at the newspaper ad sales thing. Growth business for sure. But wouldn't it be nice to work with Molly? Spend all day together, bond, keep track of her, if you know what I mean? And what are you guys really good at? That's right: I'm thinking amateur porn site. You guys going at it, with those crappy Irish songs you guys like in the background to make it seem more homemade and raw. Maybe some leftover organ meat sitting on a plate in the corner. Use your imagination. I'm just saying: You need a change, man.

Joel Stein

Victor Appleton | Tom Swift and His Electric Locomotive | 1922

Dear Tom,

You were ahead of your time. I don't just mean that you were ahead of your time as an inventor, although the speeds you got out of the train were pretty impressive: 120 mph is still in the upper bound of high-speed trains on real tracks, though if you go maglev you can get out over 250. I mean you were ahead of your time for being involved in breathtaking adventure stories that also sound a little like porn. I have a copy of this, one of your most exciting adventures. I opened it to a random page and this is what I read: "There was a mighty jerk that brought a shout from Ned Newton's lips and a grunt from Mr. Damon." Sounds to me like maybe there's three ducks in a pond, if you know what I mean. Or three hot dogs in a bun. Or three sparklers in a glove compartment. A few years before you made the electric locomotive, there was a book called "Tom Swift and His Big Tunnel." Indeed.

Manny Johnson

Friday, July 16, 2010

Fyodor Dostoevsky | The Brothers Karamazov | 1880

Dear Alyosha Karamazov,

Or should I call you Alexey? Well it isn't any matter, whichever you prefer.

You see my friend I have come into a bit of trouble. I am not sure how to live without your company. It is true your story was intended to go on, that you were to be a great hero. But alas! I saw you last rejoicing on a hill amongst a crowd of children and then suddenly you were gone. You walked along and over the hill and vanished from my life. You are perhaps the most beautiful person I have ever met and will ever meet. I have come into to trouble as I have lived feeling that you were real, far more real than any person I have encountered thus far.

The trouble is this, where you were real I have begun to feel less than real. Although you exist in a finite sense within pages, you were depicted fully, as if from outside of yourself as well as from within. I cannot see myself from the outside, and therefore feel far less real, far less whole, especially in your absence. It is true that neither of us is at present aware of our fate, or will ever be until we meet it. Still I would have liked to think that we might have met some day within the realm of the real. You have the greatest heart of all men. I would be sure to know you immediately if ever we do meet again.


David Foster Wallace | Infinite Jest | 1996

Dear Madame Psychosis,

The night is not the same without your voice on the airwaves. Your disquisitions on the esoteric and the intangibles of life were the shimmering payoff for a day cluttered with radio spots selling unflinching car financing and cheap, mismatched mattresses. Your slot has fallen on hard times since you left, but you probably knew that already. A friend of mine taped your hour most nights, luckily. On weekends we put them on and listen. We listen and we listen until the moon is low again and meaning's been smashed out of us. When I wake up on the couch with my shoes still on and the sunlight creeping into the room, your voice is still in my head, lulling me to a place that's fleeting, thin as air. Some things are better the second time around.

A fan,
Dylan Brown

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Ernest Hemingway | The Torrents of Spring | 1926

Dear Yogi,

When I see a squaw, I think the way you do, which is that I am gripped by a new feeling, and something rises up inside me, and I consider rushing forth and conquering the frontier. Sometimes I imagine that there is a horse between my legs and I whip it. That is what happens when I see a squaw.

Robert McDonald

Bharati Mukherjee | Jasmine | 1988

Dear Jasmine,

Or would you prefer Jyoti? Or Jane? You remind me so much of John Handford, from Dickens. He also had so many identities and no identities. Also, you are beautiful. I don't see why a man would treat you the way a man treated you. I take inspiration from your strength. I cherish your story and read it so many times, over and over again, to try to figure the way in which your life fits across mine. I now think I know the answer, but I will keep it to myself.

Anita Mehta

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Joan Didion | Play It As It Lays | 1970

Dear Maria,

The other day I was out driving in the desert and saw a snake and thought of you. More to the point: I saw the snake, and pulled my car over to the side of the road and watched it, and for a moment I imagined that the snake was thinking of you. I read your story last year. You are older than I am, but I am at the age you were when you had your trouble, and so much of what you went through, I went through: the sex, the drugs, the alcohol. I'm proud of none of it, though some of it has been exciting. Mostly my life has been like a movie I've been watching, hoping that it ends well. I drove away and left the snake there by the side of the road. I'm guessing it's still there.


George Orwell | Animal Farm | 1945

Dear Snowball,

Please do not trust Napoleon. I know that your instinct is to throw in your lot with him to achieve the betterment of all pigs, but that one is bad pork. I don't see anything good coming of your partnership with him.

Be careful,
Louis Restrepo

Friday, July 9, 2010

William Gaddis | The Recognitions | 1955

Dear Wyatt,

I'm jealous of your memory. As an art historian-in-training, there are moments where I would give my right hand (my writing hand) to be able to cleanly recall anything back to the time of pagan Greeks and Romans. I'm sorry your memory didn't serve you long into old age, but after the few scattered references to Van Gogh, I think I was expecting that. I also wanted to let you know that your later "restoration" work will not have been done in vain. I'll keep chipping away at those old master paintings for you.

Yours in Titian (since we all study with him),
Taylor Poulin

Marcel Proust | In Search of Lost Time | 1913-1927

Dear Narrator,

I confess I am embarrassed to address you in English. It is neither yours nor my native language. And it is a language I do not master perfectly. What I have to say is quite easy, though. I love you, Narrator. Je t’aime. Ti amo.

I suspect I could hardly be your type. I am neither a Gilberte nor an Albertine. But I do not care, Narrator. My love for you is of the purest form. It is the perfect love that cannot be experienced anywhere but in our minds. It is the love for a man whose sensitivity I consider so affine to mine that when I read your words I can imagine having written them. The love for an image in the mirror. The love that makes us suffer every time we miss a lover and the promise of an impossible, perfect union. I miss you in every lover I have lost, my dear Narrator.

Forever yours,
Elisa Caldarola

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Jean-Paul Sartre | Nausea | 1938

Dear Antoine Roquentin,

Objectivists are definately more attractive. Maybe you want to read up on that.
Jesslyn Watson

Marcy Dermansky | Bad Marie | 2010

Dear Marie,

I know it's not what it looks like. The kidnapping charge is totally bogus. Ellen should be furious with Benoit Doniel, not you. No father wants to leave his daughter behind. But Benoit's clearly an unfit parent (and a lying son-of-a-bitch to boot), so you did what you had to do. You're great with kids. Everyone knows you took good care of Caitlin. No harm done.

Gloria Allred's not cheap, but she's definitely the lawyer to get you off. And I'm not surprised your mother's going to pay the bill. Mothers eventually always come through

Now please, please, stay out of trouble.

Ann Dermansky

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Jules Verne | Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea | 1869

Dear Captain Nemo,

For many years, when I read your story, I thought of it as something that looked backwards. I had a teacher who told me that you were the modern Odysseus, and that even your name referred to Homer's hero. (I forget all of it, but it's at least about the Cyclops, and the false name Odysseus gives, "No-man.") You were there, exiled under the sea, and you were going slowly crazy. You were drunk on your own power, and after you captured Conseil, Aronnax, and Land, you gave them great favors, though only on your own terms. The professor thought that in this way you were like France, or maybe the sea was like France, or the squids. I don't remember. The only thing I remember very clearly is the time that you dosed your guests with sleeping pills. I remember that it was January 18, because that's the birthday of a friend of mine. It's funny what parts of books stick in your head.

Anyway, I now think about you often, and not just because you had wonderful adventures, and fought giant creatures, and torpedoed warships, and steered for the heart of a massive whirlpool. I think of you because the modern day, and the way that we are all in worlds of our own, even as we fear the broader world, reminds me of you. We are all isolated, all petty masters of our own domain, with a growing terror of the great unknown all around us. Oh, one more thing. You always went profoundly into what other men could only imagine. Our age now is largely on the surface. You might not like it. At the end, after he leaves you, Aronnax thinks of the way you piloted the Nautilus into the ocean's worst spots, and he remembers a Biblical quote, from Ecclesiastes: "Who can fathom the soundless depths?" His answer is that you can, and that he can. I hope the rest of us can, sometimes.


Raymond Carver | "Cathedral" | 1983

Dear Robert,

I think I would have done a better job describing the cathedral. I think what confused everyone was the silence. A cathedral makes no noise. A cow moos. A dog barks. But how can I explain to you what noise a cathedral makes? It makes the noise of worship or of the spirit and that's not really a noise that anyone can explain. Maybe it's a hiss.

Jason Schubert

S. Ansky | THe Dybbuk | 1914

My dearest Khonnon,

When I speak to you, O Ghost, I want you to know me just as I have been forced to know you. I want my presence to be thrust upon you as yours has been upon mine. You hide behind the cloak of the unknowable mysteries of death, you lucky bastard, and poke at my weakest places, at my most vulnerable memories and you force me to feel.

Well, I want you to know that I am turning the table. I am going to invade the world of the dead and, as sure as a grave robber, I will thrust my will upon yours and make the dead dance and give up their secrets. I will no longer suffer you to use the mask of your invisibility. I will meet you on the level playing field of my imagination where we both will wear crowns of fire.

And I will fuck the dead moon into your eyes.

Jeremiah Lockwood

Monday, June 28, 2010

Robert McCloskey | Blueberries for Sal | 1949

Dear Sal,

I had a cousin once who went out to pick berries, just like you, and was separated from her mother, just like you, and ended up following a bear, just like you. But it didn't end up so great for her. I don't want to say what happened but it was grisly, if you catch my drift. Ku-plink, ku-plank, ku-plunk!

J. Welton

Ernest Hemingway | For Whom The Bell Tolls | 1940

Dear Robert (a.k.a. the “Inglés”),

I know, I know… I'm supposed to be agog in male admiration over your bravura with the improvised bridge attack despite Pablo's treacherous half-assery. Shooing Maria off with tears in her eyes to meet a heroic death after that interminable "Thou art my little rabbit" sweetness? Don't kid yourself. The pillow talk won't devote her so easily to your loving memory once she makes the rounds in Madrid. Any woman who can cook wild game and not shy away from a compound fracture is a definite looker in these uncertain times: Fascism does seem to keep reincarnating in forms less obvious than Lieutenant Berrendo! Plus you never will see her with her hair grown out. I'd bet guerrilla warfare makes it fuller, gives it a bit more bounce. Yes, call me a simple bourgeois hedonist, but I think she's also a world unto herself worth fighting for. You would get to keep thine educated head in Montana and lose it with her at the same time, you realize.

Excelsior anyway,
Forrest Roth

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

William Shakespeare | King Lear | 1605

Dear Gloucester,

Didn't you know that Edmund's letter was forged, and that he planned to use that fake to try to get you to think ill of Edgar? You are a gullible old man. I am a Nigerian prince who cannot re-enter my home country to claim my endless riches. I would like to borrow some money from you to help unlock my bank accounts. If you send me ten thousand American dollars today I will make you a millionaire.

Philip Miller

Alex Haley | Roots: The Saga of an American Family | 1976

Dear Chicken George,

How times change. You do something, it's heroic. Michael Vick does it, it's villainous. Wait. One is dogs? Never mind. This is why I never read the newspapers. They tell you everything you don't know.

Yours in freedom,

Elena Ferrante | The Days of Abandonment | 2005

Dear Olga,

Coming from a Catholic family, you likely were raised on the idea of Reconciliation through Penance, the law of divine forgiveness only granted after suitable regret is shown. Suitable regret includes reparation toward the wronged party.

You could not handle abandonment, and your dependents suffered for it. You poisoned your dog, nearly killed your son, and forced your ten-year-old daughter to cook, clean, even tend to her brother. You repented, caring for your children, your house, and your job. You did not explode when your daughter screeched she wished your husband's lover was her mother, she had nicer hair than you, and you had to go and give her your hair, not your husband's hair or your husband's lover's hair. You did not strike your son when he said his father was more fun, nicer, and better besides.

There is a flaw within Reconciliation. If one commits a deed, one can do it again, and Jesus decreed forgiveness to be given "not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy-seven times."

I only hope your current partner does not leave you; you would not survive it.

Ena Lee

Monday, June 21, 2010

Rabindranath Tagore | The Home and the World | 1916

Dear Bimala,

Sure, Sandip is charismatic, but maybe he's just charismatic. Maybe he takes the world's problems and burns them so that he can look good in the firelight. Maybe Nikhil is flawed. Maybe he is not always a good man. But he loves you. I hope you realize this in time and avoid the worst mistake of your life.

Laura Alenius

Tom Robbins | Even Cowgirls Get the Blues | 1976

Dear Sissy,

Do I have a match? Sure do: Your thumbs and my wang. I'm sure this isn't the first time someone has used that line on you, but here's to hoping it's the last.

Vaughn Collins

Alma Alexander | Changer of Days | 2004

Dearest Serena,

Yes, you were treated abominably, all for the good of your country. Yes, the man you were married to could be a monster, fortunately he didn't show that side of his nature to you. Yes, for all your material comfort, you were accounted for so terribly little, but you knew your own worth. Surely you could have found those whe were loyal to Anghara and get her out? Anghara could have so easily loved and valued you, despite what your husband had done to her people and to those who had dared care for her. Despite what he'd one to her, his own sister. What's more, in the long years in the future Anghara could have done with a female friend, and who would have been better in the role of best female friend than you? When you began to assert your rights, Senena, I wanted to stand up and applaud. I was so damn proud of you.

So what I'm saying, Senena, is surely you could have found the resources to help Anghara escape in a manner that did not demand the loss of your own life. Surely you did not have to break my heart, and bring tears to my eyes every time I think of you?

Wishing you peace, Senena,
S. Lilley

J.R.R. Tolkien | The Lord of the Rings | 1955

Dear Frodo,

You really should have that shoulder seen to. How many years has it been now? I don’t care if it was a Morgul blade, there are alternative medicines that I’m sure would help. If some “spiritual” poison or other has been left in the wound, a shamanic extraction should be able to exorcise it. I wouldn’t trust what Gandalf says about it. He may know a lot of things, but that’s really not his field.

Speaking of Gandalf, I almost hate to say this, but Saruman was right about him, at least in some ways. He does tend to use people, even sacrifice them “for the greater good”, I’m sure he would say. And I’m sure, too, that he does believe he is doing the right thing. But “a good end cannot sanctify evil means”, as William Penn said. (I know you don’t know him, but trust me, he was deemed a wise man in his time.) That old wizard will send someone to his death if it means gaining an advantage. Sure, he’ll feel all guilty about it afterward, but he’ll still send them. He sent you, didn’t he?


Too bad about losing that pretty ring after keeping it safe for so many years. You’ll have to tell me how that came about when we get together next month for tea and biscuits. Looking forward to seeing you and having a nice long chat.

Till then,
Wolf Lahti

Friday, June 18, 2010

William Shakespeare | Julius Caesar | 1599

Dear Calpurnia,

I've heard that you are known for getting premonitions. Allow me to lend you some advice. The next time you get one in a dream, just please keep it to yourself. It probably won't make a difference if you tell somebody or not. Your own husband didn't listen to you, and look where it's gotten him...

Best of luck,
Sabiya Ahmed

Walter Dean Myers | Monster | 1999

Dear Steve,

Affiliations can be potential, essential, influential, and of course consequential. Steve, you entered an unthinkable, unimaginable situation, a sequence containing mental and emotional carousels. This evidential trial threw your young self into an overwhelming state, where people who did not know the slightest thing about you wanted you in jail for your entire life--the prosecutor, Sandra Petrocelli, and many citizens who accused YOU of killing Mr Nessbit. Your trial highlights the significance of association, how one can be caught up in gang violence, persuasion, on any occasion.

They wanted 25 years to life from you, they wanted to deprive you of your late youth, and take away your whole adulthood. This is beyond capital punishment. This is taking away one man's possibilities to succeed and live. I tell you, Steve, 25 years to life is a lot worse than death, it's taking every one of your breaths and for one affiliation you succumb to your own guilt in a jail cell. I watched your movie, I was entertained, there really is no movie out there that highlights perspective as well as yours did. Sure you are now in your late twenties making millions, but right now you would be owned by the state probably sobbing yourself to sleep, wishing for your own fate. But pertaining to perspective, can I really trust that your role was so minor that you received no money? Can I really trust your innocence? They decided. Affiliation kills youth, and regret is our torment.

Do you ever imagine yourself, young Steve, in the dark orange? But your misery is history and the only reason you are out is the jury, your life could've been gone in a hurry. Is prosecution strict, hard, tough? One could say that. But is affiliation potential, essential, influential possibly consequential? Definitely. You came out lucky Steve, continue with your uncalled for strives for success. But don't plan on just making money because of a published movie based on your past. Write a book. Talk about why teens are prosecuted, I feel realistic fiction is good for you. But your story is more than realistic fiction. It's a historical fiction.

Alex "A.C." Cardinale

Patrick Carman | The Tenth City | 2006

Dear Alexa,

My name is Anne. I am so jealous of the adventure you have gone on, and the troubles that you have faced. I have many questions that I want to ask you. How do you feel knowing that you were chosen to save the Land of Elyon? Is it easy for you to leave you father behind on many of these journeys that you have?

Knowing that things will come unexpectedly, I am amazed at how you take everything in, how you stay calm through those intense moments. Your friendship with Yipes is the thing that makes me smile every time I read about your journey. Do you ever wonder about why you were chosen? I would always wonder about why it was me who was picked to do these unexpected things. I always dream about going on journeys to different places and saving the world (although I know that I am too old to think of these things, but I have a big imagination so I think about these things a lot) and just living the way I want to live.

After meeting the Warvold brothers, how did you feel after seeing them being back together after so long? How did you feel when you learned about the past: about Armon, the Warvold brothers and how they began their journey?

What advice do you have for those who are like you? What would you recommend for us to do when we face many of the journeys you have faced? I really enjoy reading about the amazing journeys you had. I do hope you will be able to reply to this letter soon.
Yours truly,
Anne Kwok

Meg Cabot | All-American Girl | 2002

Dear Samantha Madison,

You are such a cool girl and very brave. I was so amazed when I read you jumped in front of a bullet to save the president. I don't think I could've done it. I would have just stood there feeling stupid and useless. You showed me that outrageous events could happen to even a plain, normal person. I wish there was a way for me to get an extra boost of confidence, you know without having to save the president, maybe something like walking across a large bridge would be thrilling enough for me (I'm afraid of heights). I also think you're very lucky, you know having such a sweet boyfriend. I wish I could find such a sweet and caring guy. Well I just wanted to say how much I admire you and your accomplishments.

A Fan of Yours,
Erica Layne

Message From the Proprietors: Letters With Character Now In the Schools

For some weeks now, we have been getting reports that Letters With Character is being used as a classroom tool in high schools and colleges. This pleases us, as we believe that letter-writing is calisthenic: it develops tone in use of language and generally promotes well-being. Yesterday, we received proof of these reports in the form of a cache of letters from ninth graders at Brooklyn Latin School. We will be posting those letters periodically over the next week. They can be read either in the flow of the overall blog, or by clicking this special capital-letter LINK. Thank you.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Dan Jenkins | Semi-Tough | 1972

Dear Burt Danby,

I know the story's mainly about Billy Clyde. He's the humminest sumbitch, I agree. But when you walked in with Barb in your velvet jacket, gold dog tags, and hot-combed hair, I decided that I wanted to be like you for the rest of my life.

Mark Merola

Thomas Pynchon | The Crying of Lot 49 | 1966

Dearest Oedipa,

I find this letter to you will be weighed down by two competing concerns.

First, I think I fell a little in love with you. This is by far the larger of the two matters, the one that made gravity's pull seem a suggestion, not a law. It is an idea: short, simply stated, and done.

Second, I'm not sure how best to get this to you. What delivery system will reach you? What address? What stamp? Gravity returns.

One matter seems so ephemeral. One so material. I guess that's the point, right?

Sean Ferrell

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

James Joyce | Ulysses | 1922

Dear Molly,

Sometimes when I am hearing you think, I am sure that you are in bed and, even though you say you are in night clothes, I think you are in no clothes. I can sense it, like a dog before an earthquake. Or is that a bird? I think that Poldy doesn't exactly understand what you mean when you talk about your body. He wants to. He understands some bodies, for sure. I love when he goes out to the jakes to drop some kids off at the pool. That is a more modern expression. But I don't know if he really knows what a woman's body is like. I had a husband like that. He was a specimen but he didn't understand the first thing about touch. When we sat together at night he massaged bone. Bone! Who touches a bone over and over again and thinks that feels good? It's like they are hammering away at your kneecap waiting for something to jump. Do you think doctors do better? I cured myself by getting rid of him. He thought he was getting rid of me, but I got rid of him. Then later that winter I was out on the beach and saw a man who looked like him. It wasn't him for sure, which put me at ease. This man was a specimen too. I walked back along the beach with him and went up a path to his house.

A.R. Chase

James Joyce | Ulysses | 1922

Dear Bloom,

Remember when you mistook yourself for the blood of the lamb? The arrogance! And how inappropriate, given your background. When I was in Ireland, years ago, I didn't know if there were any Jews there. I mean before I went. I was in a restaurant the first night and a guy next to me was speaking something I didn't understand. "Gaelic?" I said. He shook his head and said "Hebrew." Later on I got with a girl who worked in the restaurant. She was Catholic. She kept telling me about her savior and wouldn't stop even while we were in the throes of it. She told me about the blood of the lamb and I told her about you and then we did it again.

Peter Ritchie

James Joyce | Ulysses | 1922

Dear Buck,

We're a man short for seven-asides on the green and your heft could help us at hooker. I know it's been a few years but your stately weight would help in our little agon, rucks and all. Once a mauler, or so they say. (And did you know that Teilhard de Chardin was a cracking prop? Bet you didn't.)

Jonny Diamond

James Joyce | Ulysses | 1922

Dear Bloom,

I met this guy named Aron Schmitz, and he said he was you. The nerve! He told me a funny story. He was crossing the street and a car smacked into him. Down he went to the pavement. Ambulance rushed in. When Schmitz got to the hospital, he feared death was near, but his last thought was not of his friends or even his wife. It was of cigarettes. He had loved them his entire life and could not imagine passing out of the world without them. He asked for one. It turned out that he survived the accident. "Survived to smoke," he said. As I was leaving he repeated the outlandish claim that he was you. I said no that Bloom was Bloom and only Bloom. He laughed and said, "Tell him Italo Svevo said hello."

Arrivederci e buona fortuna,
John Wallace

James Joyce | Ulysses | 1922


For Yahweh's sake lay off the kidneys, man. They're making you smell like piss. Maybe that's why your wife is climbing on some other dude. Just an idea. I can't say for sure that's the reason, even though I did once read Molly's mind (we all did).

Anyway, just putting it out there.

Anne Perry

James Joyce | Ulysses | 1922


Saw Boylan at the pub about an hour ago. He didn't say anything to me, and I said nothing to him. He is unaware of me and certainly unaware that you and I are friends. BUT, I thought you'd like to know he was showing around some pretty raunchy paintings that definitely carried a likeness to your Molly! I found this odd, because of that thing you told me about wanting her to pose naked that one time. I don't think she actually posed naked for Boylan, but it certainly looks like he was able to make some pretty decent forgeries from memory if you know what I mean.

Now, I'm not saying I would be able to identify or not identify a forgery or a nude painting of your Molly. I mean how would I know? I'm just looking out for you, man. Maybe Molly is up to something. I have no idea.

What are you up to? Just heard this writer speak at the National Library, Dedalus or something like that. He had some crazy shit to say about Shakespeare. Were you there? I thought I saw you.

Let’s get a drink soon.

Ryan Britt

James Joyce | Ulysses | 1922

Dear Leopold,

Rudy only went eleven days, which is nothing, which isn't even enough time to learn what he didn't know. It was all lights and sounds and smells and things brushing against his fingers and feet and things in his mouth. He didn't have so many thoughts but one of them, I am sure, was that he loved you. I know you are thinking of him and I want you to know that he is probably thinking of you, too.

Elaine Allen

James Joyce | Ulysses | 1922

Dear Leo Bloom,

Bialystock, a mess. That guy is just filled with scams and schemes. He doesn't want you for your brain, not really, and also....oh. Never mind. Wrong Leo Bloom. My mistake.


James Joyce | Ulysses | 1922

Dear Bloom,

You are always following women from behind and admiring their amplitudes. In my experience, this is a wiser course than going up to them directly and saying something like "You have more curves than a racetrack" or "You look like butter--how would you like me to butter your muffin"? I admire your discretion. Keep up the peeping.

Bill Patrick

James Joyce | Ulysses | 1922

Dear Bloom,

There are some, like you, who are empathetic to my current job situation. To them I say, Thank you. But there are those who wish only to look into the eyes of the beheaded man to see what they might see. I say to them, You're welcome!

Your fond friend,
William Walsh

Message From The Proprietors

Today, in honor of Bloomsday, we will have an all-Ulysses Letters With Character. Tomorrow we will return to regularly scheduled programming.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Agatha Christie | The Mirror Crack'd | 1962

Dear Miss Marple,

It's a devilishly clever thing, the way that you figured out that one woman gave another woman German measles and inadvertently rendered her infertile. You solved a murder. But Heather Badcock? Really? It's a little too porny for my tastes.

Lucy Hall

Donald J. Sobol | Encyclopedia Brown, Boy Detective | 1963

Chief Brown:

Far be it from me, not having had the pleasure of raising a family, to tell someone how to raise one's children. However, I am growing increasingly concerned about the "business" which your son, Leroy--or "Encyclopedia," if you prefer--has been running out of your garage since the spring. On the weekends and evenings, it was not so much of an issue. But school is out now and when I work from home, the noise from next door can be very distracting. At times, five or six kids may be just hanging out in your garage all day, parking their bicycles against my hedges. Just last Tuesday, I thought I'd have to go out and break up a fight Leroy was having with someone named "Bugs" and what appeared to be a youth gang. Luckily, your son's large female friend stepped in and put lie to any conflict.

I have no problem with an enterprising young man trying his hand at a small business venture, but a "Detective Agency?" Whatever happened to good a old-fashioned lemonade stand?

Not to be a hard case about such details, but I am pretty certain that some sort of license is required for such a business. I suppose that would be more of your domain, being the Chief of Police for the city and all. Also, the hand-lettered sign, while charming, is a little off-putting and unattractive and has to fall under some sort of zoning regulations for this neighborhood.

I am somewhat new to the neighborhood, yes, and have heard from others about Leroy's supposed deductive prowess. Yesterday, I was very distressed to find he and his friends going through my trash, looking for "evidence" of someone's missing dog. Of course, they found nothing, but the experience left an odd taste in my mouth, to have been even vaguely accused of such a thing.

Again, I don't want this to create any "bad blood" between us, as, aside from this one point, the experience of living next door to your family has been a largely positive one. I just do not want this thing to go too far. I would be more than willing to discuss these matters in person and hope that we can move forward as friendly neighbors.

Thank you for your attention in this matter.

Sincerely, your concerned neighbor,
RJ White

cc: City of Idaville Department of Licenses and Inspections

Thomas Pynchon | Gravity's Rainbow | 1973

Dear Tyrone,

You should have never chased that harmonica down the sewer. Once you did, there was no turning back, and you eventually found yourself running around post-war Europe in a cape looking for a rocket. That's always how it goes--things spiral out of control, and eventually lose shape, purpose and meaning. After that, all that's left is slapstick and song. I realize that you began to fade at the end of Gravity's Rainbow, but that's always the fate of heat--to dissipate and spread its information into other forms, promiscuous with datapoints. You did just that, and then moved on to bigger and better things. Or so we like to think.

Best regards,
Darren Cahr

Monday, June 14, 2010

Dan Brown | The Da Vinci Code | 2003

Dear Robert Langdon,

I just read a study that Harris Tweed is poisonous. Well, actually, I did not, but I wish it was. Or that loafers make you keel over. Or that Mickey Mouse watches put you in a coma. You are a boob, no matter how many cases you solve.

Mark Reynolds

Charlaine Harris | Dead As A Doornail | 2005

Dearest Sookie,

I have been able to peek into your life quite regularly and at some um... embarrassing moments. I have seen you beaten up and making love and since I feel like we could call ourselves friends I felt that you might accept some advice from an objective angle. First off, I think that you should have given poor Sam a chance, he just wants to be loved...but since that ship sailed a long time ago I thought I would offer further comment on your love life. Bill is a jerk, he may have decide he loves you now, after everything you have been though, but I would just ditch him completely. Also, why in the heck were you so hard on Quinn, he was such a nice guy and a probably a great Tiger to have around in a fight, which may have come in handy for recent events. On one final parting note...choose Eric, he may be a self-centered pig sometimes but I think he cares for you and that confuses him in his old age, so he does some stupid things. Give him a decent chance...I would like to see both of you happy.


P.S. I am sorry about Claudine, I miss her too..

Suzanne Collins | Catching Fire | 2009

Dear Cinna,

I don’t care much about fashion. I think no matter how good it looks, it’s frivolous and fleeting. I don’t get the point of the weird, abstract things models wear strutting down runways or display in uncomfortable-looking contortions on magazine covers.

At least…that’s what I used to think, and probably because I didn’t understand what fashion is capable of. When you used beauty and glamour to show the ugliness of the Capitol, you opened my eyes. Fashion isn’t just flashy costumes—it’s a calculated spectacle, an instrument to influence public sentiment by creating an impression. With each sensational piece you designed for Katniss Everdeen during the Games, my understanding took fuller shape. When Katniss and Peeta rode their chariots out in flaming headdresses, I took off my hat for you. When you dressed Katniss in the candlelight dress that reminded us she is only 16, I raised my glass to you. And when we saw her wedding dress, I pressed the middle three fingers of my left hand to my lips for you.

You are amazing. You are more than a clever stylist. You are a champion in the front lines against the Capitol. You use your artistry to create fashion that has shocked and thrilled all of Panem. You have shown us all that artists are just as powerful as politicians and leaders. You’re rebelling against the Capitol, and you’re doing it with style.

Thank you for the gift of your unforgettable designs.

Oh Cinna. I hope to receive news from you soon. Please, please be all right.

Be well,

Friday, June 11, 2010

Samuel R. Delany | Nova | 1968

Dear Lorq,

Next time you go on a grail quest, make sure you understand your secret motives. Really, though, I don't have so much to say to you. You're boring. I'd rather talk to the rest of the crew. Tell Mouse that the sensory-syrynx is a beautiful instrument. And tell Katin that he should hurry up and finish the book, because soon there might be no more books.

Freddie Weathers

Jane Austen | Pride and Prejudice | 1813

Dear Elizabeth,

I know we don't know each other, or rather you don't know me, but I feel as though I'm well acquainted with you. I want very much to admire you and praise you and love you unconditionally, like so many others do, but my affection for you is half-hearted. I do love your story, your love story if you will; your pig-headedness, along with your husband's, reminds me quite a bit of my own at times, but if I could be so bold as to ask: what happened next? After a lovely courtship/disdain-ship, in which you professed so profusely your desire to marry for no one but yourself, with no thought but love, there seems to be no marriage. You marry and that's it? I want to know what the rest of life is like for Mr. and Mrs. Darcy. I hope there are no zombies in your version.

Affectionately yours,
Rachel Manwill

K.A. Applegate | The Change | 1997

Dear Tobias,

Two hours changed your life. But you wanted it that way, didn’t you? Being a hawk can be simpler than being human, I get that. But I’m sure it doesn’t help your loneliness. I guess that’s what Rachel and Uncle Ax are for. I know Jake is the leader and all, but you’re the one that saved the world, you know. If it wasn’t for you, the morphing would never have begun. You were the first. Yes, technically you’re half Andalite, so it was kind of in your blood. But at the time, you didn’t know. You were just a kid with an ability, and you used it. It was your escape, your hope. And you were mine.

Thank you,
Michelle Flores

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Toni Morrison | Beloved | 1987

Dear Beloved,

How does it feel to be in the longest dead baby joke ever?

Claire Grossman

Ray Bradbury | Fahrenheit 451 | 1953

Dear Faber,

I heard you went to see a retired printer in St. Louis. Is this true or are you the same coward you have always been, uncertain how to make a dent in a society that keeps pushing you out of the way? I think you are a pretty terrible role model, like most teachers I know. We met once, you know. I was sitting on the bus when you boarded. We struck up a conversation. After about five minutes, I was fascinated by your self-absorption. It was like it seemed to you that things were written for you, instead of for the world. Thank you for tipping Guy off to the world of memorizers. That made it easier for him to keep a glimmer of hope alive. But at most you make a glimmer.

A.J. Pollard

Stephanie Meyer | New Moon | 2006

Dear Bella,

Grow a pair, sweetheart, and dump your stalker boyfriend Edward -- you know he is a stalker, right? This is 2010, my love. You do not need a man to rescue you. Go out and get yourself a real man who doesn't watch you sleep and follow you wherever you go. I also wouldn't recommend Jacob either. Can you imagine how much time a wolf would spend in your bathroom getting ready? Eww, not to mention all the clogged drains.

Jennifer Rayment

V.C. Andrews | Flowers in the Attic | 1979

Dear Catherine,

First, your beloved father died. Then, your slightly-less-beloved mother locked you and your brothers and sister in an attic. Then she tried to poison you with arsenic cookies. I know these things must have been difficult. But then you had to go and make it worse. Having sex with your brother, no matter how hot he is, no matter how slim the alternatives, is never a good idea. It leads to two-headed babies, failed ballet careers, marriages to old men, and other undesirable things. It leads to girls reading about you in fifth grade because their mothers don’t pay enough attention. It leads to them remembering the gruesome incest details for the rest of their lives, even though sometimes they forget their own phone numbers. So thanks a lot, Catherine.

Erica Barmash

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Henry Green | Back | 1946

Dear Charley,

Your situation is so sad. You went to war, lost your leg, and returned only to find that you had lost your girl. Life was bleak. Then your father-in-law, or the man who would have been your father-in-law if Rose had lived, sent you to meet a young widow he knew. Her name was Nancy and she was just like Rose. It drove you a little crazy. It turned out that she was kind of Rose, in a way. I don't want to ruin the surprise for you. I don't know where you are in this experience. I know this isn't much more than recapping what happened to you in your life, but I want to tell you that you are very real to me, even though you lived in a place where there was so much death and I don't know anyone who has died, really, except a girl in my high school who was in a car wreck.


Anthony Burgess | The Clockwork Testament, or Enderby's End | 1974

Dear Enderby,

I'm right there with you. Can you believe what they did to your Gerard Manley Hopkins script? It's enough to give a man three heart attacks, if not four. Also, you died in the most lurid way imaginable. Can you imagine if they made a movie about your life? I'm sure they would mess it up.

Joseph Rand

J.D. Salinger | Catcher In the Rye | 1951

Dear Holden,

You're absolutely right about all the phonies in the world. They make you feel lonely and depressed and like you'd kind of like to be dead sometimes. But I have something to tell you: You're a phony too, sometimes. Like when you talk about how you hate it when Ackley never does anything until you shout at him to, and then later, you do the exact same thing to Stradlater and Ackley. They ask you to move out of their lights, or turn out the lights, or leave, and you just keep doing what you're doing. I mean, I don't blame you for it or anything. For the most part you aren't a phony and all. And your teacher Mr. Antolini wasn't being flitty. He was being fatherly. He was worried about you and you deserted him. I was mad when you did that. Anytime somebody tries to help you, you find some excuse to leave them. I hope that when you grow up you're a novelist, like what D.B. could've been. I want you to write about all the phonies in the world. Maybe then you'll realize that you can be a phony, and you'll stop complaining so much about others.

Oh, by the way, if you wear a red hunting hat in New York City, you're bound to get some funny looks.

Leanne Kinkopf

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Don DeLillo | Great Jones Street | 1973

Dear Bucky,

I loved Amerikan War Sutra. I liked Diamond Stylus. Then I bought Pee-Pee-Maw-Maw and I was in tears by the end of the first side, and they weren't tears of joy. I know you are trying to strip rock music down to its inarticulate essence or something like that, but you are worse than Jethro Tull.


Laura Ingalls Wilder | Little House in the Big Woods | 1932

Dear Charlotte,

I know you are only a doll, but I wanted to tell you that when I was a kid in the seventies, people sold and even made Charlotte dolls, which creeped me out. In my mind it was connected to Valley of the Dolls, which was a little earlier but equally creepy. And then later on I read a story about a man who falls in love with a mechanical doll who was created by a scientist. I don't remember the name of that story but all in all, it gave me some weird ideas about what is real and what is artificial.

Thanks for nothing,
Charlotte Perry

Robert A. Heinlein | Stranger in a Strange Land | 1961

Dear Michael,

Stick your head up your ass and die.

Failing that, take your vacuous psuedo-hippie messianic bullshit and go back to Mars. You are not misunderstood. You are an idiot.

Cate Burlington

Monday, June 7, 2010

Homer | The Odyssey | c. 800 B.C.

Dear Telemachus,

For Father's Day last year, my dad came back from the war and we shot an arrow through twelve axeheads and then killed a hundred guys who were hanging around our house. What did you do?

Leon Bair

Thomas Mann | Confessions of Felix Krull | 1954

Dear Felix,

Let me ask you a question. You say that you love deception, right? Costumes, forging your father's signature, affecting fever to avoid responsibility. So why should we believe anything you say about your life? How are we to know that you are not lying about everything...oh, wait. I get it. Maybe that's the point. Damn it. You are a step ahead of me again. Well, now I feel foolish. But I did want to tell you that I love that moment when your father has you imitate a violinist and mime his performance. Engelbert was really onto something. Was that true? Now I am confused.


Nathaniel Hawthorne | The Scarlet Letter | 1850

Dear Hester Prynne,

I write to offer my condolences, because your life truly sucks. However, I can't feel too sorry for you, because you have made some poor life decisions. The A on your chest does not condemn you for being an "Adulterer," but instead for the fact you are "Attracted to Assholes." I can conceive of no possible reason who could have felt compelled to marry Roger Chillingworth. He looks evil for god's sake. Speaking of god, you and Arthur should have reached the conclusion that it would be a good idea to leave Boston a long time ago. Despite Dimmesdale's penchant for drama and hyperbole, adultery is not the end of the world You are the one facing all the iniquity and he thinks he is the one suffering. Typical man.

But, that's all in the past — all that's left is you and your crazy devil spawn. And that is not allegory. I'm positive Pearl is actually the offspring of Satan. Are you sure she isn't Chillingworth's kid? You could have solved a lot of problems if you just told everyone that — they would have totally believed you. I think the only course of action left for you is to give that kid a series of swift spankings — I know that she reminds you of Dimmesdale and you don't want to punish her despite the fact she is devil spawn, but you've been way too lax. But who knows, maybe she'll turn out okay in the end and marry some rich British guy. In payment for my sound advice, I would love it if you sewed me a scarlet "J" I could wear on my chest. It would make me look so cool, and you could add it to your penance tally.

Jaime Fuller

Friday, June 4, 2010

Charles Dickens | Our Mutual Friend | 1865

Dear John Rokesmith,

You look exactly like Julius Handford. I mean exactly: it's a Clark Kent/Superman situation.

Paul Light

P.S. John Harmon looks like you too.

Sean Beaudoin | Fade to Blue | 2009

Dear Sophie Blue,

I am you. At least I think so. Or maybe it's just that I want to be. I look in the mirror and see your Midnight Noir lipstick. I look down at my lap and see your Catholic skirt. I hear bells and think of an Ice Cream truck chasing me in my dreams. Right before it runs me over for real. I want to walk into The Virtuality and never come back. I want to pound a six pack of Diet Crank and lie on the roof, daring my paranoia to come and toss me from the mansard, out into the night. I want to dive into the deep end of the pool and have you cannonball next to me. We can hold our noses and do laugh-bubbles together and watch each other's legs kick,kick, kick in the thick, green water. Forever.


Emily Brontë | Wuthering Heights | 1847

Dear Cathy,

You are really starting to annoy me with your whiny disposition and refusal to act like a sane, rational woman. At first it was entertaining but you're all grown up now. Eat something already and take a sleeping pill--you'll wake up feeling great. You're constructing your "illness" in your head because you are used to getting whatever you want. If you miss Heathcliff so much then do something about it! Moping around your room isn't going to change a thing. Stop acting like a child.

Brenna Kalmer

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Kathryn Stockett | The Help | 2009

Dear Minny,

At first, I didn't like you very much. You were so angry and resentful, not that I can blame you for that. The way you were treated your whole life was something at which to be angry.

It wasn't just the white people hurting you though. I couldn't believe how you let that no-good husband of yours beat you like that. You seem like such a fighter. I'm happy that you did finally decided to leave him--thanks to Aibileen. You're better off anyway. Miss Celia and Mister Johnny will take good care of you. I know you have your qualms with them, but they're good people. The three of you are a family now.

Your true character really shone brightly when things got tough. You protected the others. You were a true friend. Tell Aibileen that I think she's wonderful and that I wish her best of luck on her column. I wish you, Aibileen, and Skeeter beautiful, sweet lives. Thank you for giving me a glimpse of your existence.

Nici Sandberg

Dante Aligheri | The Inferno | c. 1310

Dear Ciacco,

I am sad that you got put into such a spot for your sin, which is gluttony. I don't really understand why gluttony is a sin, at least not why it is such a bad sin. Where do you draw the line between healthy appetite and unhealthy appetite? On top of that, I am confused about your punishment. A girl in my class said that she didn't understand why freezing rain is punishment for overeating. I don't think that gluttony is just overeating. It seems like it's more general. Like if you want too much of a person's time or too much gossip or too much pleasure. There are lots of forms of it. So what is the freezing rain? Is it like a cold shower to numb you so you won't want to keep feeling the desires for more that you are feeling? One of the reasons I love your situation so much, even though it causes you such pain, is that it gives me a mental picture that I think I can never erase, and maybe in some small way it keeps me from making the same mistake as you. We all have problems, but maybe yours can help me avoid mine.


Jack Kerouac | On the Road | 1957

Dear Sal,

Get a job.

Glen Binger

P.S. Tell Dean to give me my thirty dollars back, the lying son of a bitch.

Owen Wister | The Virginian | 1902

Dear Virginian,

When you grew up, the West grew up. When you stopped playing games and settled down to run a mine, the West went from its adolescence into adulthood. You dug into the earth to find the future and found up. But now we are past the future. The things that were under the earth that improved our life have turned on us and turned us into a different kind of country. What now?

James Yang

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Pam Houston | Sight Hound | 1995

Dear Dante,

Good dog.


William Steig | Brave Irene | 1988

Dear Irene,

Duchess or mother? Duchess or mother? Thanks so much for striking a blow against family values and for monarchy. Maybe the next time you're sick, your mom will decide she'd rather spend an evening with an Earl. Ingrate.

Beth Evers

Arthur Conan Doyle | "A Scandal in Bohemia" | 1891

My Dear Mr. Sherlock Holmes,

You really did it very well. You took me in completely. Until after the Adventure of the Copper Beeches, I had not a suspicion. But then, when I noted the civility and care with which you treated Miss Hunter, I began to think. I had seen hints of your respect for women many stories ago. I had been told that, if a woman could have a problem taken seriously by one investigator in all of London, it would certainly be you. And your generosity had been relayed to me by Dr. Watson. Yet, with all this, you still surprised me with behavior that countered my suspicions of you as a chauvinist. Even after I became aware of your willingness to work on what you considered to be a trivial problem for a female client, I found it hard to think fondly of such a calculating, unemotional man. But, you know, I have been accused of being cold and calculating myself. Unemotional reasoning is nothing new to me. I often take advantage of the clarity and logical conclusions which it gives. I re-read the tales of your adventures, pondered quietly, and came to my conclusion just as you concluded your last documented case.

Well, I followed you to the end, and so made sure that chauvinism really was not a flaw of the celebrated Mr. Sherlock Holmes. Then I, rather imprudently, wrote you this letter, and retired to once again ruminate over your many successes.

I thought the best resource was a pseudonym, when addressing one so formidable as yourself; so you will be unable to respond to this letter unless you choose to exercise those many talents which have brought you so far as a consulting detective. Still, I imagine that you will feel no need to do so. You may rest in peace knowing that your admiration and, in fact, true respect for women--particularly The woman--will remain untold by me. I have made a record of it only to preserve your legacy in coming years, and to preserve a weapon which will always be at the ready in case you go a bit too far in making merry over the cleverness of women. I remain, dear Mr. Sherlock Holmes,

Very truly yours,

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Junot Diaz | The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao | 2007

Dear Oscar,

Damn, man. I’m sorry. Things just seemed doomed for you from the start. What chance did you even have?

I’ve been there. I know how it goes. Sometimes when something is wrong in your life, it feels like the whole world is going to explode, doesn’t it? And every time someone smiles at you it feels like an attack. Like they are bragging, and rubbing their happiness in your face.

I’m thinking that we could have really gotten along. I say let’s do it all over again, but this time, I’m there with you. I’m your roommate. I lived with a few jerks in college, too, and I know how it can be. I could help you through it. I think we’d get along, just hanging around the dorm. I like a lot of sci-fi stuff. I’ve got a nice flat screen and an above-average collections of DVDs and books. We could download movies and new albums when they leak online and critique them. I’ve been really into the new LCD Soundsystem and The National recently. I think you’d dig them too.

I really think this would work out well. One thing though, Oscar. And I’m hesitant to even ask. But if we’re gonna be such good friends, we need to be open and up front, right? I hope this doesn’t seem racist or anything, but it’s just that I don’t know Spanish, and you kinda use a lot of it. I think I’m missing a lot of what you’re saying. And I’m definitely not suggesting that you can’t speak it around me. But like, could you just be a little aware, and help me out. Sometimes I’m pretty good in context. But I’m might need some occasional translation in order for us to really bond.

Here’s what I’m gonna do, I’m gonna sign up for Intro Spanish, and that way I’ll catch up eventually.

I’m excited for this. I don’t think things will be so bad for you this time. I really want to see you do well.

Adios amigo,
Alex Koplow

Saul Bellow | Mr. Sammler's Planet | 1970

Dear Artur,

I wanted to talk to you about an idea I had for a restaurant, Planet Sammler, which would be like Planet Hollywood but about you and your life. I would have pickpockets roaming around the dining room, a guy who looks like Lionel Feffer taking pictures of the diners, and the bathrooms would be designed to look like the Mezvinski tomb. My wife says it is a terrible idea, so I think I might need a new wife. Please advise.

Nick Johnson