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

William Shakespeare | Hamlet | 1602

Dear Hamlet,

Lots of people think you're a melancholy genius, like Coleridge and Goethe. Those narcissistic Romantics. And Wilson, Knight, god, those critics with their death-infected imaginations! But I know better: you're angry, confused, and you have an adolescent obsession with sex. You try to fix everyone's sexual morals, talk circles around everyone and you never listen to other people. You try to make sense of life. You also dismiss my entire gender. But I forgive you, because you have good reason to be pissed off. Plus you're kind of charming in your rage. I do have a soft spot for intellectual bad boys.

But seriously, I do want an explanation. Several. What's with this daddy worship? I want to shake you every time you start talking like him. Is it really about revenge, or are you just mad at your mother? On the subject, are you in love with your mother? Aren't there any other cougars around court? Where does Ophelia come into this? It's 3 a.m., and I've exhausted just about every possibility there is, short of asking you why. I should be sick of you, studying you all these months, but you still make me laugh with your puns and mockeries (That scene with Polonius? Priceless), and your death still grieves me every time. And I still have no answers.

Let's get this straight: you are not all that. But that's why I like you: you're as screwed up as any one of us. The Romantics made you the Edward Cullen of the 19th century, but I never bought it. (In my mind's eye, you're David Tennant.) I suspect that in real life you would infuriate me a lot and make sexist/smutty jokes all the time, but you'd still be a very charming and witty piece of work. I have to write an essay on you now (How about you come over instead? We'll have lots of fun punning together). Is there any way you could not die? I'd like you to be my jig-maker.

Thou hast cleft my heart in twain,
Florentyna Leow

Jorge Luis Borges | "The Circular Ruins" | 1940

Dear Sorcerer,

Do you think that the man you dreamt up was dreaming someone as well? What if he was dreaming you? Wouldn’t that be a conundrum? Sometimes I feel as though someone is dreaming me. At night when the air is really still and half the world sleeps while the other half is awake I feel that my actions, my thoughts are not my own but someone else’s entirely. Could it be that we are all dreaming each other? That the whole world is just one big dream? I don’t know why I think you might have the answers to these questions but I really hope you do.

Chelsea Rego

Barry Hannah | Ray | 1980

Dear Doctor Ray,

I’d been living in the hell of my own head for so long that what I did was went to the nearby pharmacist and asked her to anesthetize the pain but all she did was order the security guard to subtract me suddenly from the store, which he did. If you were around, Ray, I know you would’ve stuck me with some suitable something and driven me home. More likely, Ray, you would’ve flown me to a tennis court in collegiate Alabama and we’d be belting a ball around and probably be well into that hash and Jack and you’d be telling me about the time you got audited by the feds, about the false humiliation of loss, about big guns and the pageantry of sky pilotry, and you'd be saying to me: “Get off of it, boy. Cheer up. Sober up. Sabers up. You could be getting audited. Your wife could be queer. Sabers up, son! Sabers up! Nothing's fucked. Go get yourself some nice nooky and forget about it. Find one that'll stick by you, too.”

And that’s exactly what I did, Ray, and now everything is nearly okay. Everything is almost all right. I’m back alive and not drinking either, Ray, nothing. About married. Smoking less, too. The only thing I need to find now is a boat and some water. Direct me, Doctor Ray. Show me the way. Point your saber to the sea.

Ryan Ridge