Friday, May 28, 2010

John D. MacDonald | The Green Ripper | 1980


Per your suggestion, I've been drinking Plymouth. Great gin. Much tastier than Boodles, though any port in a storm. Especially a port that needs a little fixing up, right? A red-eyed, pale-skinned, little port in dire need of sun and sail and plenty of hearty meals and maybe a few weeks of islands, just the two? Speaking of, how are the girls this summer? Still bouncing down the beach at Bahia Mar, all giggles and grab-ass? I suppose not, what with iPods and laptops and cellphones, all the distractions that even the threat of sand doth not deter.

Well, I hope you're keeping your head down, staying off the radar, enjoying today's poor bit of retirement. Tell that hairy bastard Meyer I said hello and to shave.

Slightly sincerely,
Justin Bacqué

P.S. My offer still stands. If/when you ever want to clear out of f-18 for higher ground, I will take the Flush off your hands. Cash or card game.

Kate Chopin | The Awakening | 1899

Dear Edna,

Swim. Swim like there is no ending. Is there an ending? Are you still swimming? I don't know because there aren't any more pages left. What are you doing now? Did you make it there? Did you come back? Did you drown? Drown. Don't drown. Keep going until you see the next page, please. And I'll meet you there.

Shome Dasgupta

Herman Melville | Moby-Dick | 1851

Dear Ishmael,

I know you think that your intended audience is deeply ignorant about whales, but rest assured that many of us have learned about them in school. Please stop with the woodcut print reviews and return to the story.

Michael Powell

Margaret Mitchell | Gone With the Wind | 1936

Dear Belle Watling,

As a fallen woman and small-business owner you must be busy, so I'll be brief.

Far be it for me to tell you your job, but I would like to offer one suggestion, if I may: Rhett Butler's intense interest in women's fashion suggests a secret desire to dabble in cross-dressing. A whalebone corset, bustle and watered lavender silk combination could be just the kink to pry him away from that awful O'Hara girl.

We both know he deserves better and would look good in heels.

Jason Saffir Zenobia

P.S. Love your hair.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Chris Adrian | Gob's Grief | 2001

Dear Gob,

I think about you sometimes, your grieving machine, your madness, your home flooded and iced, you, skating, shaky and flushed, across your parlor to Maci. I live in your city but your world is gone, its war just a story, told with gore or glory, a simple equation, who won and who didn't, your real struggles lost. Many struggle now, but what for. Our wars are constant and distant, inspire madness in few, and that’s our collective madness I wonder sometimes what you’d do with. Would you build us a machine to bring back not the dead but our knowledge of loss? Would you try to unblind us, would Walt, would Wil build again his house of glass battlefield negatives, give borrowed life to those images of the dead, fixed while still living, fixed against forgetting? Or would you leave us to live, and join us, singing our songs of ourselves?


P.S. Please thank your mother for me.

E.B. White | Stuart Little | 1945

Dear Stuart,

Turn the car around. She went south.

Brook Ashley

David Foster Wallace | Infinite Jest | 1996

Dear Randy Lenz,

I realize you're not the type to welcome unsolicited advice on how to live your life or deal with whatever you have going on. And that's probably usually a good thing, I think. It shows a steadfastness that's lacking in people today. But what I have to say could really help you out, if you'd allow yourself to consider it.
Have you ever considered investing in an Xbox or Playstation to try to deal with some of your darker, personal-resolution-type issues? A new Xbox 360 costs less than $200 now, and games like Call of Duty or Halo are socially acceptable and animal friendly ways to relieve stress and vent some of that spleen. Plus you don't get chased across the greater Metro-Boston area by bearded Canadians when you off them in CoD: Modern Warfare, like you did when you garrotted their poor dog. Remember that? That alone is probably worth the 200 bucks, right? I'd also wager that in the long term, the initial cost of an Xbox plus a few games and a subscription to Xbox Live (which is only $50 a year (!) for nearly unlimited entertainment) would actually be cheaper than paying for Lord knows how many Hefty Steel-Sak trash bags. And as a college student that generates not a small amount of garbage, I'm well aware of the cost of reinforced trash bags. The Xbox 360 gaming platform also comes equipped with a built-in digital clock, at no extra cost to you, which I know is something you'd be interested in.

Wishing you a speedy recovery,
Eric Ekholm

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Mother Goose | Mother Goose's Fairy Tales | c. 1660

Dear Man in the Moon,

You never reply to any of my letters. I send you one every night when I go to sleep; my mind writes you a story and sends it up to you in the first-class dream post so you have something nice to read at bedtime. I imagined, until now, that you liked my letters, that you anticipated the stories my nights commanded. So this will be my last.

Do you remember when I dreamed that I joined you on the moon? You were a lot smaller than I had imagined, but compared to me you were still a giant. Your face was white-- white as bone, I had thought--and your body was encrusted with shining stones. They were not diamonds, though you could be forgiven for mistaking them for such things, because, until you looked closely at their surface, you would not notice the reflections of human imagination that generated your very being. Without those stones, those ideas, notions, you would disintegrate, drifting into the night to join the stars as an outcast.

You were nice to me when I joined you on the moon. You didn’t say anything--I’ve never heard your voice--but you smiled a smile that I will never forget. I understand now that I misinterpreted your expression of kindness for the same affection I felt for you.

I end my final letter by saying this. I once saw you leave the moon. I was awake; it was much too soon to sleep, so I know it was not another of my mind’s stories. I watched you, from my window, head south through thick woodland that tugged at you with selfish fingers. The stones began to break off, littering the forest floor as your strength faded. You disappeared into the forest, ravenous, desperately seeking a source of strength.

People said you came to a village--that you were given cold pease porridge, that you burnt your tongue, unaware that the porridge was not cold at all, that it was hot as your sister, the sun, and, so unused were you to the heat, it became the cause of your death. I know that is not true. You died in the forest. Your life was clutched by the branches and their cruel inhabitants. By the owls, the foxes, the woodsmen. All stole a stone. All played a part.

Farewell, Man in the Moon, and good-night.

With love,
Ailsa Sutcliffe

Jimmy Breslin | The Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight | 1969

Dear Big Jelly Catalano,

You are my hero. I have seen people here writing letters to Atticus Finch and Harry Potter, saying how great they are because they have morals and talents and because they are good people who are good to other people. But you are my hero because you weigh more than four hundred pounds, eat in the nude, and get the girls two at a time. That is a role model, because it teaches me that if you just put your mind to it, you can accomplish anything.

Allen Peralta

Ernest Vincent Wright | Gadsby | 1939

Dear Gadsby,



Philip Roth | The Prague Orgy | 1985

Dear Nathan,

Remember when you went to Prague and marveled at the way that artists and intellectuals were forced to work menial jobs? You said it was like seeing "Gore Vidal bicycling salamis to school lunchrooms in Queens." Well, you know what? Yesterday I was driving out to Belle Harbor to visit a friend and guess what I saw? That's right! Gore Vidal was bicycling salamis to school lunchrooms. He was on a Serotta. Sweet ride.

Tim Lewis

Ben Greenman | "Oh Lord! Why Not?" | 2007

Dear William,

I name you despite your refusal to reveal your own name during your account of the events that transpired following the passage of the Litt Act. I knew immediately it was you. How could I not? I loved your music. I love it still, although Music, as a thing, has broken my heart too often and too horribly to want to continue to acknowledge any love I might feel.

I am like you. In the way, perhaps, that Rick Hayward and Kayla Jay are like you. I was special. And then I wasn't. Is this true for all people? Even those who aren't or never were Pop Stars?

I have so many questions for you, William. Chief among them, this: What are we to do now?

Oh, I know... A Burger Man franchise for you. Car-pools and sack-lunch making for me. But what are we to do IN OUR HEARTS? This morning, my six-year old son asked from the back seat: Doctor, doctor, why is there a hole in my stomach? I waited for the punchline. When none came, I said, "I don't know, why?"

He said, "I'm asking you, Dad."

I had no answer. Oh, a few popped to mind. Like, "Because you're dying." Or, "I guess that's just the human condition." But none seemed very funny. In fact, quite the opposite. My four year old daughter bailed me out with the old chestnut, "I have a button collection." To which the boy replied on cue, "Oh yeah? Do you have any belly buttons?" When my daughter pulled up the front of her shirt to display her belly button, I glanced in the rear-view mirror and saw, in their smiling faces, the abyss.

A hole in my stomach, indeed.

I hope for your boy's sake that you and Gloria have patched it up. Your son sounds like a good kid. I hope he can figure out a way around the chasm. I hope he can find that moment's peace that makes the years of heartbreak bearable.

Keep in touch. You are loved.

Rhett Miller

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Gail Carson Levine | Ella Enchanted | 1997

Dearest Char,

I may not be as witty as Ella in this letters, but I am writing to reveal a secret I think it only fair you learn. I must be frank; just as you have loved Ella since you first saw her at Lady Eleanor's funeral, I have loved you. You captured my heart when I was far too young to marry at the age of seven. I have revisited this love frequently throughout my life, and actually find it quite unfair that I am unable to let you go. You have set an exceptionally high standard for the men in my life. It is not your wealth nor your title that swept me off my feet, but your goodness, your humor, your bravery, your chivalry, and your patience. If I would have received your love letter, I do not think I would have had the strength to sacrifice being with you as Ella did. I just hope someday I too will meet a wonderful man who enjoys sliding down stair rails as much as you do.

Your devout fan,

Anthony Burgess | A Clockwork Orange | 1962

Dearest Alex,

Oh you are such a fashionable boy...I mean man...don't rape me! I would have liked to hang out with you and your droogs at the milk bar but then things went a bit poo shaped for you. That bad thing you did, I can't say I expected anything less from you. But now you've done your time I heard you've changed. You see I highly doubt that letters would have been your style back in the day...let me not bore you with this tedious drivel. What I'm saying Alex is you and I, we aren't that different. In simpler terms lets settle down, buy a semi-detached house, have a family, go skiing in the Alps, get a dog, take it for walks together, fly kites, teach the children to ride bikes and grow old together.

Alice Askew

P.S. I'm not usually this forceful but my feelings have been building up for so long now. I apologize for this erratic behavior.

P.S.S. I snatch that apology right back because apologizing for one's natural behavior seems petty now.

Fyodor Dostoevsky | Crime and Punishment | 1866

Dear Raskolnikov,

Kill her; don't kill her.

Confess; don't confess.

But for the love of god, STOP WHINING!

With sincerest regards,
Susan Price

Monday, May 24, 2010

Samel Richardson | Pamela | 1740

Dear Pamela,

You may wonder why I have not written you for a few weeks, after I was clear to you about my intentions and you responded in kind. For to be sure, now it is too clear, that you do not have the same interest in the matters of the bedchamber as I do. Oh my lovely girl! I am desirous of someone who will take receipt of frankly carnal letters from me and write them back in return. But you are honest! I wish it were not so.

I had heard from Mr. B that you were the kind of young woman who would reward a benefactor with a lifting of the petticoats and a lowering of the eyelids. He told me that you were eager to let his wicked vines wrap around you. Of course, in the wake of that, I wrote you eagerly. But though he had insisted, it turned out that you were of a different character entirely, one that resisted overtures and made a monument of your piety. This is a shame and a disgrace.

Drop me a line when you are willing. I know you are able.


Dashiell Hammett | The Maltese Falcon | 1930

Dear Brigid O'Shaughnessy,

What do you see in Sam Spade? Iva, Effie, the others that aren't even mentioned: this guy follows a beak, but not the Maltese Falcon, if you catch my drift. The first time you laid out for him, it was because information was pricey, and it was easier to unzip your legs than your lips, but why'd you have to go and fall in love with the lump? A dame with a gun is worse than a dame without one, but a gun without a dame is the best of all.

Taking the lid off life and looking at the works,

C.D. Payne | Youth In Revolt | 1993

Dear Nick Twisp,

I'm truly in love with you. I've always found the respect and love you treated Sheeni Saunders with, although she treated you horribly, to be so lovely.

I've always wondered what happened to you after Sheeni left, and how you were in jail. I hope you did not continue to live as a woman, seeing as Carlotta was your only good female character. I very much think you should have gone into acting rather than juggling, but it seems that you were very successful. Your younger brother interested me a bit, but not as much as you ever did. You're always going to be in my heart as my favorite underachiever. Once again, my darling Twisp (and not Rick) I will always love you.

Dara Brown

Stephen King | The Stand | 1978

Dear Mother Abigail,

I feel compelled to write, as I know of no other way to reach you. The others--Stu, Frannie, Larry --have told me of you, and how they have visited you in their dreams. I must admit I am troubled as to why I have not dreamt of you myself, and the tall cornfields they say surround your house. Did I do something wrong?

Randall has told me I must follow Stu and the others, but not to contact you directly. Although I am scared of what he may do to me if he finds out I have written this letter, something, some higher power, is telling me I must. I hope this will not make Randall too cross; he does have a hot temper!

They say you are very old, and my father, God rest his soul, said all old people are very wise. I am sure you will know what to do.

Hoping to see you in my dreams,
Ellie Garratt

Lewis Carroll | Alice's Adventures in Wonderland | 1865

Dear Alice,

I'm not quite sure if you can read this well yet, so I'm hoping that someone will be kind enough to read this to you if you can't. I just wanted to let you know that I truly believe your tales of Wonderland. All the other grown-ups refuse to believe you, I know, but I do. I believe you. I know in my heart that the Cheshire Cat, The Mad Hatter, and everyone else really exist, even that nasty Queen of Hearts. I'd love for you to take me down into that rabbit hole you found so I can meet all of your wonderful friends. And don’t worry, I'll protect you if the queen comes around. I'll be sure to bring some sedatives to knock sandwiches and tea to make her happy again. Thank you very much, miss Alice.

Eagerly awaiting your reply and wishing you your best,
Alyssa Finnegan,

Friday, May 21, 2010

Roddy Doyle | The Dead Republic | 2010

Dear Henry,

I followed you lovingly through the Easter Rebellion, followed you to New York, watched as you lost your leg, sold bootleg hootch, waded through the world of jazz. When I heard that John Ford was going to make a movie of your life, I was thrilled. But then Ford went and whitewashed it all. The Morrises of Spiddal, they strike again, with their blarney and their bluster. You told people you were thinking of killing Ford. Don't do it, Henry. Be Smart, not stupid. A man stands on one leg when he does not need two.


James Joyce | Ulysses | 1922

Dear Bags Comisky,

It must have been Richard Ellmann who suggested that Joyce settled his father’s scores by creating characters who were unflattering portraits of people who’d wronged him. In the Eumaeus chapter of Ulysses, when Leopold and Stephen pass behind the Customhouse (a spot I've visited just to be where you were mentioned!), Leopold informs Stephen that Bags Comisky, who he believes Stephen knows, “was lagged the night before last and fined ten bob for a drunk and disorderly and refusing to go with the constable.”

Since we share the same last name, I wanted to thank you for providing me with a topic for cocktail parties when conversation is faltering, a topic that usually convinces people I'm a self-absorbed bore, and for providing me with a nickname for one of my nephews, who regularly gets hauled off to jail for being drunk and disorderly. Whatever you did to John Joyce to make it into Ulysses, I’m glad it wasn’t bad enough for you to be portrayed as the old pervert in “An Encounter.”

Stay warm,
Kurt Cumiskey

Vladimir Nabokov | Lolita | 1955

Hey Humbert,

How’s jail? I hope it's as bad as they make it out to be in those undercover exposes. I mean, I really hope you're suffering, I want to be clear on that from the outset.

You've managed to trick a lot of people into believing your only crime was being in love but you didn't fool me. I know you're not fooling yourself, either.

You deprived Dolores (I will not call her Lolita--that nickname represents yet another way in which you were forcing yourself on her, possessing her) of her childhood. You know you did. Remember that in the end, what broke your heart was not that she wasn't with you but that her voice was absent from the voices of the children you heard at play.

You might be asking yourself why I've taken the time to write a letter to someone I really hate. I'm not sure. I guess in part it's because I'm fascinated by you--a misogynist, rapist & murderer, a real dyed-in-the-wool lunatic, who people seem to find so goddamn charming. With that in mind, maybe I'm grateful to you for teaching me something really important about society, which is to say that it is screwed up.

With much hostility,
Lauren Wilkinson

Beatrix Potter | The Tale of Peter Rabbit | 1902

Dear Mrs. McGregor,

I think I deserve to know, at this point in our long history, whether or not you truly baked Mr. Rabbit into a pie. Because it’s not quite adding up. How did the Rabbits find out about it? Did you do it right in front of them, or in front of their friends? Did you send over a piece, still warm, garnished with his hat and pipe? Who are you, the Pablo Escobar of the vegetable world? Did your husband make you do it? I understand that you were trying to send a message, but it just seems so extreme, so cruel, so out of character.

Maybe Mr. Rabbit was tried in lapine court and sent into witness protection or to a work camp or something, and the pie is a big cover. That possibility has crossed my mind several times. But it still makes you look bad, very bad. And I think you and Mr. McG. would be foolish not to expect vengeance from the family for generations to come. Peter is the least of your problems—he gets lost easily, scares easily. We know this. But his cousin Benjamin? He’s a strategist, through and through. Wily, and fearless. He was the one, remember, who got them all out of the sack. No tobacco for Mr. McG., no fur-lined cloak for you. (Also, what was up with that request? Have you been hanging out with Cruella De Vil? You know as well as I do that a fur-lined cloak is not at all a practical thing to wear while canning and pickling.)

Anyway, in spite of how all of this has weighed on my heart, I still want to believe the best in you. But I'm haunted by the image of you in a rabbit-lined cloak, baking rabbit-daddy pie, and laughing that adorable laugh of yours. Say it ain’t so.

Kristen Iskandrian

J.K. Rowling | Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows | 2007

My Dearest Dobby,

In spite of your death, I feel compelled to write you this letter in the hopes that it will reach you in Heaven. I say Heaven because everyone knows that all heroic House Elves end up there. And you are a hero. You protected Harry Potter with all that you had, including your life. From the very moment you met him to the moment of your death, you consistently sacrificed yourself so that others might live. Some may find your unconditional devotion to and interference in Harry Potter's life to be a bit over the top. But I know better. You are everything a free Elf ought to be.

Affectionately grateful,
Kathryn Leigh

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry | The Little Prince | 1943

Dear Lamplighter,

You're supposed to be a hero. You started out with this easy job, which was lighting the single lamp on your planet in the morning and then extinguishing it at night. Then your planet began to spin faster and you found that to perform your duty you had to work harder. Then your planet began to spin even faster and your labors became frantic. You had no time left to yourself. The Little Prince was admiring of you because you think of others, and sacrifice yourself, and then he was (to my mind condescendingly) sad to leave your planet because it was "blest with 1440 sunsets every day."

But here's what I don't get. You have what seems like a short conversation with the Little Prince. You say seven sentences to him and he says seven to you. Then you say that thirty minutes has passed since you began speaking. Thirty minutes? How slow do you talk?

Trying to keep calm,

Jeffrey Eugenides | The Virgin Suicides | 1993

Dear All Of You,

Get over it. The Lisbon girls barely knew you existed. They were in their own world, and you were not part of it, even in the moments that you thought you were. Even when they looked right at one of you they weren't thinking about you.

Dan Kois

P.G. Wodehouse | Very Good, Jeeves | 1930

Dear Jeeves,

I read with interest your latest escapade with your troublesome employer, Bertie Wooster. I would suggest these little indiscretions with Mr. Wooster could be made into a delightful volume of entertaining anecdotes. If you would permit me to use our personal correspondence as reference material, I feel I might do justice to the tales and bring them to the printed page.

I did hear of a writer, a Mr. Wodehouse who wrote some quite humorous stories, but as he is no longer with us I feel my close association with you Jeeves could be quite beneficial financially.

Mr Wooster seems like a very lively subject for our future literary endeavours, and I fully understand your involvement in our association be kept anonymous. If you would be willing to supply the details of your involvement in Mr Wooster affairs, I am sure we could be, as the more deserving classes say ‘on a winner’.

Please think Jeeves on my proposal and I do look forward to your further correspondence on this matter.

Kerry Ashwin

Astrid Lindgren | Pippi Longstocking | 1945

Dear Pippi,

You were such an amazing swimmer, you didn't even need to wear a bathing suit like the rest of us! In you'd go, clown shoes, namesake stockings, patchwork minidress (so short!), and then out you’d come, dripping and alive.

Once, at a party, my sister got so drunk she waded into the lake with her jeans on. Her body was aglow with moonlight and love.

"Just like Pippi," I said.

"I never know what the fuck you're talking about," she said.

We're still very close.


James Salter | A Sport and a Pastime | 1967

Dear Dean,

You don't have to go.

Lauren Cerand

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Richelle Mead | Vampire Academy | 2007

To Rose,

Wow, seriously? I know that you have some major problems with authority and all, but the scene in front of the court was not only unnecessary, but will probably get you killed. If you could have just kept your temper you would not be in the situation you are in, and thus could still be care-free and maybe even still get to guard Lissa. Your poor choice of words and lack of tact is what got you in such trouble, and I thought you were finally growing up just a little. I hope that if you survive this time, you learn to think before you speak, although I doubt you will. I'm still rooting for you, even though you're an idiot.

Keep fighting the bureaucrats,
Larissa Maranell

Yann Martel | Life of Pi | 2001

Dear Richard Parker,

Like Pi, I sincerely wish that you would have turned around and acknowledged him in some way, shape, or form before you jumped off into the forest and disappeared forever. Like Pi, you also left me hanging. For some reason I feel regret towards that little act you pulled there; that ignorance you displayed so perfectly, even though I'm not the guilty one.

Keep hidden,
Julia Macdonell

Joseph O'Neill | Netherland | 2008

Dear Chuck,

I'm a baseball guy, myself. I've dived to snag a ground ball on an all-dirt infield, and I've walked the concourse of the world's most charming ballparks, creeping through corridors and watching the panoramas reveal themselves with every step. I've felt the coarse texture of outfield grass and sniffed the familiar smell of a well-worn leather glove and flocked to the rat-a-tat of a good pepper game. To me, there's beauty in the tailor-made 6-4-3 double play, delight in the bunted ball that hugs the third-base line. It's comforting.

So I can understand obsession, especially when it's related to sport. Your fascination is with cricket, which, I think, makes me inclined to be skeptical and cynical and everything else a baseball purist should be when someone proposes that cricket, one day, will supplant baseball as the cherished sport of the summer, or at least supplement it in the dog days. I don't understand cricket. To be fair, I've made no effort to distinguish between wickets and creases and stumps, and I've never figured out why cricket games -- matches, I suppose? -- last so long, and it baffles me that fans not only tolerate the marathon, but revel in it. I like my pitches belt-high, not bounced, and my batsmen by their lonesome, not in pairs, and my bowlers in lanes, with heaps of greasy fries just a dollar or two away. You get it, then. Cricket isn't for me, at least not yet.

Perhaps it's this uncertainty that makes me so intrigued by your sweeping vision, foolish as it may be. It's inspiring, in a way. A magnificent cricket arena in Brooklyn? You must know, somewhere underneath your Yankees cap, that it won't happen, not ever. But I can't help but wonder, caught up in your spirited ambition that seems as American as, um -- well, you like apple pie, right? I'll buy you a slab, some day, if your stadium ever does open. Maybe it won't be as expensive as it is in the Bronx on October evenings. I can only hope.

Thinking fantastic,
Ben Cohen

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

C.S. Lewis | The Screwtape Letters | 1942

My dear Wormwood,

I note with interest your reply to me on the matter of subtle operations. I have suggested in the past that you should infiltrate the human mind indirectly, for appearing before these mortals in too overt a manner will either turn them against us or yoke them forever to the fact of our existence. And recall also my previous notes regarding the fundamental comedy of the demon in the human imagination, and how this keeps us, fortuitously, in a position of espionage.

I must commend you, my dear nephew, on your work with the modern American political scene. I have said many times that our human patients are the healthiest to us when they are either extreme patriots or extreme pacifists. Every time I turn on the television, I see that you and your colleagues are following this bit of wisdom. I commend myself for thinking of it and commend you for following it.

In addition, Wormwood...Oh, who am I fooling? It's not your Uncle Screwtape writing you! It's John, the guy who lives down the hall. For a while, all your devil this and demon that and Mephistopheles the other thing was getting on my last nerve, but then I thought about it, and I am pretty sure I agree with you. So, will you teach me? I have a pretty good hold on evil already. Can I be the Wormwood to your Screwtape? I am six-foot-two and can bench about three hundred pounds, if that makes any difference. Nose tackle in college.

Keep on the sunny side,
John Wilson

C.S. Lewis | The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe | 1950

To Peter,

I greatly admire your courage. I was terrified when I heard of your encounter with the wolf, but extremely gladdened to hear of your great triumph against such a formidable foe. I do hope you remember to clean your sword in the future. As Aslan said, the consequences of ignoring that most necessary act may prove disastrous!

Please also extend my congratulations to you and your siblings for vanquishing the White Witch from Narnia. My most especial thanks indeed to your brother Edmund, who is also to be commended for his honorable deeds. You are indeed a most extraordinary family.

Sincerely, and with great admiration,
Jessica Knebel

Harper Lee | To Kill A Mockingbird | 1960

Dear Atticus,

You are my hero.

You have a quiet courage and resolve to fight for everyone's right to be treated fairly, judged for their actions, not the color of their skin or station in life. A peaceful, kind-hearted man of high morals with the strength to stand up against popular thought, you do what’s right knowing full well the consequences might not be very pleasant.

Eloquent and wise, you lead by example, teaching your children through actions rather than lecture. Long on patience, short on ire, never shielding the truth from your young ones. You are perhaps the best father I have ever known, real or fictional. You embody everything that is good in mankind and inspire greatness in others. You make me want to be a better person.

Thank you. Thank you for existing and being a touchstone by which to judge one’s actions. You are my hero.

Marie Popichak

Constantin Stanislavski | An Actor Prepares | 1936

Dear Torstov,

I've been quite taken by recent transcriptions of your workshops on acting. You have all these great secrets for developing one's character. Reading the play dozens of times; examining motivations; building on personal experience etc.

I get it, makes so much sense. But, I'm wondering how to make all this work if I'm not, and have never been, an actor. I still want my actions and words to be filled with life and authenticity; and they should emerge organically from that seed of truth--planted in the soil of my own imagination-- which produces the outer life of my own role. I've reread old journals and emails and considered my objectives. What are your recommendations?

So for example, how do you prepare to buy groceries? They say never to grocery shop on an empty stomach, but I imagine you do that habitually. What about talking with an attractive women at the bookstore? Do you guess at her psychological history before starting a conversation? Obviously you don't go up to her without having established an authentic foundation of inner technique.

When your students performed a scene Othello, you said, "The first false note was the excessive bustling. It derived from your great anxiety to entertain us and not from any intention to carry out specific objectives." And that makes me wonder if you always have that specificity while waking up or making breakfast, or at ten minutes before the end of your lunch break. I suppose you just move and speak and think from that "organic seed of truth"? Right? How do I shed all this bustling?

Noah Levine

Monday, May 17, 2010

John Steinbeck | The Grapes of Wrath | 1939

Dear Ma Joad,

I'm picturing you outside the barn picturing Rose of Sharon inside the barn (doing her business with the man who hadn't "et" in six days). You're proud of her. But still, your family is sickly and soaking wet and hungry. No money, no food, no place to live. Winter is coming. Well, I don’t know how things have been going lately, but I’m guessing you’re still struggling. So anyway I had this idea. It just came to me. WET-NURSING. Seriously. Rose of Sharon could get work as a wet-nurse. Wet-nursing is an ancient, honorable occupation. Muhammad was wet-nursed. Napoleon was wet-nursed. Freud (of course that guy was wet-nursed). John D. Rockefeller. He was wet-nursed as an old man--and I'm pretty sure his wet-nurse made a good living. My point here is that Rose of Sharon could be doing something for her own family too. Anyway, just a thought.

Best of luck,
Scott McFarland

Haruki Murakami | Norwegian Wood | 1987


Where did you go? You were so whole--once. Even when Naoko died, you were whole. Even when you called Midori and realized that you were so very, very alone, you were whole. Yet, in Hamburg, all that time later.. in Hamburg, you were barely a person. Just a voice, telling a story, so detached that it might have happened to someone whom you met on the Paris Metro half a lifetime ago. It's as though you existed in memories alone, just a shell with a myriad of recollections stored behind your eyes.

It's circular, I suppose. You lived, and then, eighteen years later, you were still alive, but only because you had that memory of what living was like. You could remember what life tasted like, what its colours were, but you couldn't for the life of you recreate them to a tangible notion for the present time. Perhaps, in another eighteen years, you'll find out what living is again, and you'll do more than merely exist. Who can say.

One day, maybe, let me know where you went, and with whom you ended up. It all seemed so final, so very final, and sometimes, I think I miss you. Last November and late at night, wandering through Vlaanderen fields myself, where the rain had leached all colour from the landscape, and what you said came to mind - of the cold November rains that drenched the earth and lent everything the gloomy air of a Flemish landscape - and I think I really did miss you, then. I wanted to find an all-night café with a payphone, and call you, and ask you where you were and where you'd been, and if you ever did return to Midori, or if that last phone call's silence was a mutual aeternum vale.

Yes, I often do wonder. Where did you go?


Chuck Palahniuk | Fight Club | 1996

Tyler Durden,

I’m not going to lie Tyler Durden, but I kind of have a crush on you. What can I say, you’re charismatic and free. You got me a little paranoid for a while there every time I woke up tired. I thought it may have been you. But you’re not part of me, I know. You want to know when else I thought it was you? I hurt the back of my hand pretty badly and it left a mark. I kept thinking it was your kiss out of the corner of my eye. This is my fault though, I was quite sleep deprived. I’m always sleep deprived when I think about you, of course. In any case, I think you know what I’m itchin’ to talk about, Tyler Durden, but you did write the rules and for some reason I seem to follow them. So I will refrain.

Yours respectfully,
Julian Bronson

Various Authors | The New Testament | A.D. 50

Dear Jesus,

I am not sure if you are classed as a literary character (but as you are written about in many books, you must be) and I am a little concerned about the "fictional" part too. To me you are fictional as in some of the tales that have been told about you. but as an actual person, well I am sure you were real. Strange how stories can get changed over time and what was meant as one thing turns out to be so very different to what was intended.

I would love to have met you just to have an ordinary conversation about ordinary things. I wonder if we met today the conversation would be any different? Perhaps it would be the same kind of topics but in a 2000 years later setting.

To all your family, the ones that you truly know about, I send much love. Family life is never easy. Palestinian life sometimes more difficult than most.

With Best Wishes,
Brenda Abou El Ola

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe | The Sorrows of Young Werther | 1774

Dearest Werther,

I miss you. Sometimes, at night, I cry when I think of the lovely and tragic things you said. Do you suppose Albert, Lotte, and the children don’t cry as well? I want you to know that despite this, I support your decision.


Dare Wright | The Lonely Doll | 1957

Dear Edith,

I know that you are lonely and rattling around that big ol’ apartment and that the pigeons won’t give you the time of day, but I truly truly think that it is far too early in the game for you to have to settle. I mean, Mr. Bear’s fur is rather soft and his necktie is jaunty and Little Bear can be quite the cut-up, but I also think, and I’m not trying to judge you in any way, that your relationship with the two of them is NOT HEALTHY.

From what you’ve told me, Little Bear has been pressuring you to do things that make you uncomfortable, and Mr. Bear—well, I know that he said that he was sorry after he hit you and acted super-contrite and bought you all those flowers—but an abuser is an abuser and no amount of apologizing is going to change that fact.

But it ultimately comes down to this: what do you really know about those two? Where did they come from? Why do they feel that they have the right to just move in and take over? And that strange moratorium of Mr. Bear’s on makeup and high heels—what is up with that? Babydoll, you need to throw those two out on their furry little asses, and you need to do it now.

I’m telling you this as a friend. Even if you won’t listen.

Much love,
Lisa Brown

Bram Stoker | Dracula | 1897

Dear Mina,

I know, you're in Romania nursing dear Jonathan back to health, and by now you've probably married him too. (Was it by some quaint peasant custom? No doubt.) Well, I have news for you, lots of news. Firstly, Jonathan's a wuss. You're about a million times brighter than he is, you are more resilient and braver, and I can't believe you plumped for him when you used to sleep with Lucy, even if it was in an 1870s sisterly kind of way.

Secondly, thanks to your superior attitude to Lucy ever since you got engaged to J, she's gone and got herself engaged within the space of approximately three days. But wait, there's more! Last you saw her, she was all girlish and flushed and excited about her suitors (remember how she wished she could marry all three of them? didn't that set any alarm bells ringing?)--well, now she's all flushed and excited because a certain someone who is not altogether unknown to dear Jonathan is having his way with her, or more specifically with her neck. And her rejected suitors, under the guidance of a somewhat manic "foreign expert," have been pumping her full of their blood every time they find her underdressed and oversucked on the bed. If that's not in need of investigation by a medical malpractice panel, I don't know what is.

Mina, they are going to punish her for not giving them what they want, or rather, for giving Dracula what they want. I'd just like you to know that, because when you get back it's going to be all tears and declarations of (posthumous) adoration, and then they are going to fixate on you next. Keep records of everything, and for goodness sake don't let old Van Helsing get you alone. For a man of science he's entirely too fond of charging into ladies' boudoirs brandishing his holy wafer.

With oceans of love and a deep incomprehension as to what you ever saw in Jonathan Harker,
Rose Edwards

John Knowles | A Separate Peace | 1959

Dear Gene,

Alright, you bounced Finny out of that tree. Or you didn't. There are a thousand truths of any moment. You just pick the one that lets you get out of bed the next day (unless it's Sunday) and eat your breakfast and go to work and come home and watch your favorite sitcom. Maybe pour some bourbon so picking your truth isn't so arduous and you can get back in bed at a reasonable hour. Anyway, don't beat yourself up about it too much.

Elizabeth Rosenbaum

Friday, May 14, 2010

A.A. Milne | Winnie-The-Pooh | 1926

Dearest Edward,

Have you gone mad, Bear?

I noticed that you’re wearing a shirt, not just into the pool anymore but all the time. You’ve changed. Are you embarrassed or something? Perhaps we could discuss over a cup of tea. Animals like you have several rights, including the right to exposure. Your outfit doesn’t even afford suitable coverage. I suppose you are a bit overweight. Does it provide some sort of unobvious postural support?

While I understand that your honey habit is a medical affliction and there’s nothing to be done about your puffiness, this is an issue of civil liberties, and as a literary icon with universal recognition, you should understand the importance of your cooperation. While it is likely that you will have trouble appreciating my gravitas—you’re not the brightest of bears—if it accommodates your schedule, I will drop by your stretch of the woods on Chuseday.

Oh, and what the F was with that dreadful new collection about you and your entourage? You already make your owners, I don’t know, a hundred billion dollars a year. Sing ho! for the sell out!

Anyway, much to discuss! I would appreciate if you would not glop the honey on the biscuits or put your paws in the honey or try to sing or spell. See you at elevenses.

Best regards,
Michael Sasi

P.S. Don’t take offence to this, but red is not your color.
P.P.S. I currently have 37 messages in my spam box. Do you think I should invest in some kind of security software?
P.S.P.S. In regards to your last letter, I could not possibly disagree with that more. Adding a few tiddely-poms does not make a song more hummy. I tried it and the result was disastrous, you silly, stupid old bear. Cost me my chunk of bread and a peacock feather. That feather was very dear to me. It was a gift. The bread was sourdough rye.

J.D. Salinger | "A Perfect Day For Bananafish" | 1948

Dear Seymour,

It's been awful long hasn't it? I was thinking of the dun colored horse that wasn't black but was the fleetest nohow. How apocryphal Freddy was hugging it and weeping his great tears.

And how you were telling me to watch all the crabs scuttling around at the same time. Watch each one carefully because Po might, on a sunny day, do something like that, trying not to bend the leaves.

I also left a load of bananas on the beach, half stuck in the sand, hoping you would pick one out and have a meal of it. But you don't seem to be coming out of your house lately. The breakup was hard on you, wasn't it?

I used to push people I loved. Down the stairs. Kick them even. I think I wanted to feel that push, that kick. Because sometimes affection is like that. So much happiness it feels like a violence. Kids understand that burst.

Anyhow, I hope you feel better soon. I've been writing on my refrigerator the last slips of paper that Kafka wrote while he was dying.

He thinks the flowers are thirsty. Franny can't pass a flower by without telling me the bee color.

We all miss you. Even if you are so happy, think of us. Come out and play.

Helen Cho

F. Scott Fitzgerald | The Great Gatsby | 1925

Hey Gatsby,

How's it going? What're you up to Saturday night? Wait, let me guess: A party. Again. With the same goddamn bores. Can I make a suggestion? Cancel the band. Turn off your lights. Lock your doors, for once. (Jesus, seriously. It's just not safe having people waltz in and out willy-nilly.) Instead, come over to my place. We'll watch a movie and kick back with a few beers. Have you seen (500) Days of Summer? What about Forgetting Sarah Marshall? Maybe we'll stay away from High Fidelity, but you've already seen that a thousand times, I know. Anyway, email me back or just drop on by. You're always welcome.

Your other neighbor,
Brian Kim

Anthony Powell | A Dance To the Music of Time | 1951-1975

Dear Nick,

From centaurs, so much came. You know what I mean. You saw snow falling, started to think, and the first thing that you thought of was your own past. From there, it all unfurled. When I think about you, which I do often, I think mostly of plot. How much can be told of a life before it has a plot? If I say that a man woke, went to work, bought a gun, bought a mask, and put a bullet in the back of the Prime Minister, is that a plot? If I say that another man woke, went to work, came home, repeated the same process for decades, along the way loving, losing, losing those who were loved, working, procrastinating, attending parties, lusting after women and money and fame, but never in an untoward way, suffering, sometimes by his own hand, sometimes through the cruelty or indifference of others, and that this same man eventually grew old and frail, is that a plot, or a number of plots woven together inexpertly? So much of your life is clear to me that it is not at all clear that it is not just a life, something presented rather than composed. Composed: brings me back to music, and time.

Dancing still,

Richard Powers | Plowing the Dark | 2001

Dear Taimur,

That was some bum luck the way you got captured. And not just captured, but thrown into a tiny room, shackled to a radiator, beaten. I know you were "of Iranian extraction," a phrase that always seems weird to me, like you're describing spirits or candy, but I'm sure that didn't make you feel any better about your captivity. Extremists beat. That's one lesson learned. And I know you didn't know a thing about the group in Seattle, Adie and the others, who were trying to create virtual reality. If you had, you might have thought long and hard about how your impoverished actual reality could possibly have been compensated for with technology, or faith, or imagination.

I leave you only with this thought: in dark rooms, things develop.

Trapped out here,

Albert Camus | The Stranger | 1942


I have been struggling to understand your character and your belief in the absurd ever since I finished reading about you. I can only say that it has been to no avail. Perhaps I am too sensitive, too emotional a person to accept that this life has no meaning. I'm willing to believe there is a meaning to all that happens here more than I am willing to believe there is not. That probably didn't make any sense to you, but then again, you don't make any sense to me. I will leave you alone now.

Anjanie Pandey

Khaled Hosseini | The Kite Runner | 2003

Dear Amir,

You disturb me. You disturb me because you are so honest. Honest about how you were so jealous of Hassan, your half-brother, and how you loved him at the same time. You story moved me, because it showed me what it was like to be truly human. It showed me that being human was about being imperfect and then overcoming our imperfections. You laid bare all your vulnerabilities and risked losing your reputation and even your life, just so when you were all alone, you could be in the same room as yourself. Just for peace.

It hurt so much when you saw him being raped. It made me realize how much I loved him too. I wanted so much for you to step out of the shadows and into that alley to be that hero. But we can’t be that hero all of the time, sometimes we’re not ready when we’re needed. I guess that’s when tragedies or mistakes occur.

Thanks for telling us your story. You gave me permission to be imperfect and to create tragedies and mistakes of my own. Most importantly, you gave me the courage to redeem myself.

Kai, are you at peace now? Does saving his son, save you from yourself? Or will you always be paying for what you did. I want to know because like everyone else, I have something I may have to do or be too.

Quyen Thai

Emily Brontë | Wuthering Heights | 1847

Dear Cathy,

Please stop lusting after your cousins. First, ewww. Second, hasn't anyone explained inbreeding to you (I would think this would be of particular concern to you considering the family tendency towards madness)? And third, you can do better. Trust me, those cousins of yours? They're no catch. Especially that peevish whiner, Linton. Temper tantrums just aren't that attractive in a man.

You're young--get out and date the neighborhood boys. There's got to be someone in Gimmerton that would strike your fancy. Or, have a fling with the groomsman. Better yet, go to the big city.

You have options. Explore them.

Jill Powers

Francesca Lia Block | Weetzie Bat | 1989

Dearest Weetzie Bat,

I hope you've got a cotton-candy, looking-glass sky tonight, so you can see all the sparkling lights and stars above LA. My side of the sky is across the country, but after all, it's the same sky; and I wish the same for it just about every night so I can gaze up, and look, and dream, and wish.

And that's why I'm writing: to say that ever since I read about you, I've learned to wish a little more than usual. I've made a lot, and almost none have come true, but you're fearlessness makes me keep on wishing. You weren't afraid to ask that genie for your three wishes at all. On the spot and spot on, you knew what you wanted and you wished. When your cottage and Duck and Secret Agent Lover Man came to you, you took them in and made them a part of you. You kept the best that the world gave and rolled over the bad like a dune buggy on a beach full of rocks.

I feel a little bit like Witch Baby sometimes--wild and mad and crazy about everything. But she has you and Dirk and Duck, and Cherokee, Raphael, Coyote and Angel Juan and Agent Man, and tumbles through. And now I have you and your family too, to think about and dream with.

It's funny, because you're younger than me, and older, and the same age all at once. I'm still a mixed-up girl just graduated from her teens, but your strength and bravery to do and dress and say what you believe will be with me for awhile. You keep making those movies and loving your friends, and I'll do the same (with a slight difference in day job).

Your Hopeful Solar Sister from the East Coast,
Hayley Woodman

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Douglas Coupland | Girlfriend in a Coma | 1998

Dear Karen,

We don't know each other, and I feel almost embarrassed to write to you out of the blue like this. I would like to express my happiness that you woke from your coma with no lasting damage. I can't imagine what it must feel like to find yourself in a world completely different to the one you left seventeen years ago.

I saw you on TV recently, talking about how you feel in the modern world and what you said really struck a chord with me. I agree wholeheartedly; a world in which all everybody thinks about is work, just to possess the latest gadgets, is a very scary place to live in. It isn't how I imagined the world when I was younger, either, the difference between us is that I grew up with it, where it has been thrust on you.

Now don't get me wrong, technology has vastly improved the way we live our lives in many ways, but at what cost? I feel nostalgic for the days when people would go visit their friends for a chat, instead of switching on a machine and writing shallow messages to each other. How can we possibly have a conversation full of nuance and feeling through two glass screens, so detached?

In a way, I envy your naivety of the modern world. I dream of the day everybody abandons their computers to step outside and enjoy the world while they have the chance.

I can't shake the feeling that you're going to be leaving us shortly, so I will take this opportunity to say goodbye, and thank you.

Michael Barr

Alice Munro | "Royal Beatings" | 1977

Dear Rose,

I always thought of you as something that grew and was pretty. Is that obvious? There is so much in your life that was vegetative, and so much that was animal. I like the part where Flo found your father's papers, where he had jotted down notes on scraps, and she thought that "Spinoza" sounded like some kind of vegetable. There is so much in your life that was known, and so much that was unknown. I like hearing about it because even though no moment itself suggests wisdom, the whole thing, if absorbed, prevents ignorance.

Protect yourself,

Arthur Conan Doyle | The Valley of Fear | 1915

Mr. Holmes,

I am writing to check that you are still alive.

Where have you been? I have been awaiting a reply for many months and I am now curious as to why you've failed to reply to my former attempts at correspondence with you. I do realise that you are a busy man, but I have seen nor heard a thing of you since your last case and I really am starting to worry. Please do not make me write to Watson to check if you are alright, it will only exasperate him further as my incessant pestering has almost worn him to the bone these past few weeks. In fact, I think I shall bypass Watson and will personally come to Baker Street and see what is keeping you from writing me back! Most likely you will be working on some godforsaken secret case which is keeping you from the more trivial tasks in life, so I am happy to wait until your head is cleared of such things and you are able to form an appropriate response.

Unless of course you have died, in which case I wish to extend my deepest condolences to Watson and Mrs. Hudson. I do hope you died doing something you love. What an anti-climax to such a remarkable life it would be if you were to have died from illness or old age. Not that I am suggesting you are old, merely pointing out that you may or may not even open this letter and in the event that it remains sealed until the event of your death and a nosey character decides to open the old and dusty letter being used as a saucer for a cup of month old tea, I decided to address the issue.

Then again, I do suppose you are probably just being the insufferable man of whom I should have become accustomed to by this point and that I should probably stop bothering you with these blasted letters. I assume that you will, at some point, read this and write me back.

Hoping that the case goes well (if at all there is one) and impatiently awaiting your response,
Evangeline Tyson-Sell

J.K. Rowling | Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows | 2007

Dear Tom Marvolo Riddle,

I am utterly ashamed of you. You continue to destroy innocent lives and all for the sake of blood purity? You are a half-blood yourself, should you not be punished?

If it wasn't for you, Harry Potter's life would be so much easier, the people he loved would not have died. He would have had a better upbringing. But, instead, you murder everyone he holds dear: his parents, his godfather, his mentor. Harry Potter would have had a normal, easy wizarding life without you waiting at every corner to knock him down.

You do not even deserve to call yourself a wizard. The amount of crimes you have done do not deserve Azkaban. You deserve so much more than that. You deserve a Dementor's Kiss a thousand times over, to rot as an Inferi. Harry Potter showed you enough mercy by killing you that day.

I am glad you are gone. "People" like you do not have a place in this world.

Kate Rawson

Miguel de Cervantes | Don Quixote | 1605

Dear Don Quixote,

I've always respected you and your way of thinking. Even when you covinced Sancho to come with you and chase those damn windmills, I respected you even then. But you wouldn't listen to me when I told you, marry a woman, have children, live a normal life. Instead, you chose reading all those books. Did the books give you children? Did you rescue anyone or anything? NO! There were times when I needed a cuddle, but nooooooooo... you had to save the world, like a mighty brave knight. Did the books give you love? NO! When I asked you to find a soulmate, you said no one could love you. Well, I DID! But I couldn't tell you that. You would've acted out and maybe married that useless tool, Dulcinea. I'm sorry for my horrible and trivial language, but I am frustrated and sad. I know you'd be disappointed to see I've sent this letter, as you were always a big supporter of the face to face discussions. But every time I tried getting into the subject, you yelled at me for interrupting your lecture. Well, let me tell you that this letter is the most important lecture of your life. No words can describe what I'm feeling right now.

Despite the fact I am married, you will always be in my heart.

Yours truly,
Teodora Petrescu

P.S.: I eventually found out from Cervantes that you managed to set yourself free from the cloud of ignorance cast by those terrible books. Too bad it was too late...

Ayn Rand | Atlas Shrugged | 1957

Dear Francisco Domingo Carlos Andres Sebastián d'Anconia,

Get over Dagny and come find me. She’s not as smart as you thought she was; you’re far hotter than John. I just have one request: at our wedding, please refrain from long, philosophical speeches.

Love Always,

Frank Norris | The Octopus: A Story of California | 1901

Dear Magnus Derrick,

More than anything, I remember your converstion with your wife Annie the night that you told her about the way that the ranchers and farmers were organizing against the railroad. She was afraid for you, that despite your great integrity you would be defeated, if not consumed, by the railroad. I wish you were around to see the media and multi-national corporations now. They are probably worse than the railroad ever was. Annie imagined it as a "leviathan with tentacles of steel." That's frightening but imagine if the tentacles weren't even visible, if they were radio waves and wireless internet and scraps of information.

So much is gone. The Mussel Slough, where so much of your life passed, is not what it once was. Tulare Lake is no longer really Tulare Lake. I am sorry. I don't know what to do about it. Annie also said that she felt "a sense of a vast oppression, formless, disquieting." I know what she meant. I am sure that you do, too.


Jane Austen | Pride and Prejudice | 1813

Mr. Darcy,

I'm sure you're shocked to be getting this letter via the internet, as you have no idea what the internet is, but I ask you to set aside your biting wit and intellect for a moment and focus instead on the content of the letter rather than the manner in which you are receiving it.

I knew that I liked you from the beginning, even when you rebuked Elizabeth, I could tell that it was not because you didn't like her, but that you, like me, aren't moved to like anyone that you just met. You're shy. I like that. Forgive me, am I being too plain and forward? It's unbecoming of a lady, I know, but I do live in 2010, so I do hope that you will forgive me.

I think you're the most generous person that I know, and by knowing you, I know that I don't know you but I do. You exist fully within the pages of my favorite book and I've been looking for someone much like you ever since I came to know you in the past few years. Lucky for me I found him. He, like you, is an upstanding citizen, who works hard to make other people happy. He seems overly intelligent and unfeeling too, like you. But because I knew you, and I knew how you operated, I was able to know him too.

So I wanted to extend this letter of gratitude. To you, for being who you are. Although you are too proud at times, it is something that we all suffer from, I think. You, to me, are a romantic, and because I knew that about you, I found out that I'm a romantic too--even though we're both highly logical people.

I'm so logical, in fact, I'm writing you an email--ah, but I guess that's the romantic in me.

Samantha Perry

Ernest Hemingway | The Sun Also Rises | 1926

Dear Brett,

I find myself in the horrible position of telling you what a truly terrible human being you are. I know what you're doing with Jake and Robert when you're very much engaged to Michael. Now, don't give me any sob story about how you lost your "only true love" at such a young age. This gives you NO right to be a tramp. Also, half the women in Paris would agree that you are NOT charming when you are drunk like you think you are. In fact I would go as far as to say you are repulsive in all forms of the word. Occasionally, I cringe when you speak because it is always to use someone. You're despicable. Disgusting. You're a pedantic weenie.

Alexandria Smith

Daniel Keyes | Flowers for Algernon | 1966

Dear Charlie,

Im sory I dint rember about diner with you last nite. I usd to be smart but now I ferget a lot from takking to meny yeers years of ambien pills. Somtimes it makes me do dum things like when they say hey lookit that he really pulled an Adele that time and i alwas laff but secretly i wish ther was an operashun so I could be smart agan.

It is to bad but if god wantid you to be my reel boyfrend he wood have made you born that way.

Adele Griffin

William Shakespeare | King Lear | 1605

Dear Goneril,

I always thought you had the ugliest name. Oh, and the ugliest character. You told your father that you loved him more than words can say. Leo Sayer said that same thing, but he didn't go on to betray his father and poison his sister, at least as far as I know. I am no expert on Leo Sayer. When I was a kid, I saw a version of your life where you were played by Rosalind Cash, the great African-American actress. You want to hear something strange? She has almost the same name as Rosanne Cash, and both of them had fathers named John Cash. Rosalind's was a famous army man. Rosanne's was a famous singer. I digress. In that version, the role of your father was played by James Earl Jones, who also played Luke Skywalker's father. I think you are more evil than Darth Vader.

I Loves Me Some Pop-Culture Cross-Referencing,

William Shakespeare | Hamlet | 1601

Dear Hamlet,

Our lives first crossed in English AP.
Was it by chance, by fate, or simply serendipity?
Though at first the assignment seemed rather quixotic,
The fire I feel for you is something exotic.

Throughout your capricious bouts of melancholy and rage
I had to contain myself, keep my feelings in cage.
In your climatic tale where everyone thought you bonkers,
I knew that loves like ours could do nothing but conquer.

Fair Ophelia was left despondent, with the absence of your touch,
Polonius sputtered his extemporaneous speeches towards your grandeur and such.
You became reclusive and took to the graveyard
“Slings and Arrows” you proclaimed, and my heart throbbed hard.

As your kingdom dismantled, left for Fortinbras to take
The infinite love that grew between you, me, and the pages, clearly took the cake.

Laura Horstmann

Stephen Chbosky | The Perks of Being a Wallflower | 1999

Dear Charlie,

You've sent me so many letters and now I'd like to send one back.

Your letters have really changed my life...sometimes I feel just like you: confused, happy, sad, and sometimes...infinite. Just yesterday I was thinking about my life and what I want to make out of it. I'm not entirely sure yet but I'm okay with that, and I know that you would be too.

Remember when you wrote to me about how on the last episode of M*A*S*H you found your dad crying in the kitchen while making a sandwich? Well, I did the same.

See you around Charlie and thanks again.

Love always,
Yoo-Jin Kang

Wu Cheng'en | Monkey | c. 1590

Dear Xuánzàng,

I came to you through Tarantino. Is that wrong? I had seen both parts of Kill Bill and then someone mentioned you and off I went. I left and returned several times over the course of a year but now I feel that you and Sun Wukong and Zhu Bajie and the rest are my brothers. Your bravery is mine and your victories stir my heart.

Dan Chao

Thomas Harris | The Silence of the Lambs | 1988

Dear Dr. Lecter,

Thank you for your letter from prison; I can understand your need to establish contact with the outside world, but for the life of me I can’t figure out who you are. Your name does ring the proverbial bell… perhaps I saw you on Jepardy or– heavens!– Wheel of Fortune?

Living out here in the sticks as I am, far from any electronic devices such as have been foisted upon the human race since the day Franklin flew his kite, I have no way to determine who you might be; and the nearest library is a thousand miles away.

But to address the main question in your brief letter: yes, there are accommodations available in this remote area. There are plenty of abandoned farmsteads scattered about. In fact, I myself moved into one a few years ago– it’s amazing how a little contact paper and a few yards of ball fringe manage to dress up a place!

If you like hunting, there is plenty of wild game in the nearby forests. I happen to have a large stock of instruments and tools necessary to the craft and you would be free to borrow anything you like.

Good luck with your incarceration– remember, every day that dawns is a day closer to your release! One foot in front of the other, as I always say.

Your new neighbor,
Jim Crescitelli

Herman Melville | The Confidence-Man | 1857

Dear Confidence-Man,

You come onto the scene as "a man in cream-colours." Fair chin, flaxen hair, white fur hat. Is the white supposed to represent your honesty? I have to say that I don't get you. One of the things that confuses me most is how you can con people if you aren't understood. I always thought the best cons appear fixed to their marks, so that the deception comes as a surprise. Or maybe that is a function of my place off the Fidèle, here on shore. If I'm off the Fidèle, maybe I'm the untrustworthy one. All I know for sure is that I love hearing about your adventures, and if I were to ever start a band, it would be called the Retail Philanthropists.

Something Further May Follow,

Luiz Alfredo Garcia-Roza | Southwesterly Wind | 1994

Dear Gabriel,

I thought long and hard about writing this letter. I see that people here, at this site, where my letter will hopefully reside, are using this privilege of interacting with their favorite books largely for comic purposes, or to settle scores. I have a different motive. I wanted to try to connect on a deeper level. That sounds so foolish it almost makes me want to abandon my letter entirely. I don't know if people know you. You are a man in a mystery, maybe a victim, maybe a perpetrator. I can't say too much more without ruining it for others. I can say, though, that you face a moment where you are told that you will do something terrible, and you have to grapple with fate, or what you believe fate is. That experience resonated so deeply with me that when I first grasped your circumstance, a chill went through me "from crown to ground." I am quoting someone else we both know. I don't have anything funny to say to you. No dismissive quips. I just wanted to let you know that you reached a place in me that terrified me, and does still, and I thank you and damn you for it.


Gertrude Stein | Tender Buttons | 1914

Dear Blue Coat,

Why are you guided guided away, guided and guided away?

This is strange, very strongly.

The other day I had my thirty-first birthday.

Some time next summer maybe summer I will be getting into a wedding and driving off.

My brother said, "Do you love him?"

"What is love?" I said. "What is him?"

My brother did not laugh but I did to try to make him laugh as well.

Outside I am inside wherever I go.

Am I making more sense than you or less?

Rebecca James

Philip Roth | The Dying Animal | 2001

Dear David Kepesh,

Spare me.

Lawrence Levi

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Samuel Beckett | Malone Dies | 1956

Dear Malone,

Once in a bar I was helladrunk and said to a hot girl, "You shall soon be quite naked in my apartment in spite of all." Dude. You got in my head. It didn't work but I made out with her friend.

Fist bump,
Leo Flores

C.J.L. Almqvist | The Queen's Tiara | 1832

Dear Tintomara,

Man? Woman? Which is it? Either way, I am attracted to you, which disturbs me.


W.G. Sebald | Austerlitz | 2001

My Dear Austerlitz,

Last week, on a trip back to the city from New Canaan, where I had spent a leisurely afternoon interviewing the nonagenarian widow of the architect Landis Gores, I found myself parched, and so made my way, driven by some kind of subconscious force, through the digestive system of Grand Central Terminal until I found myself sequestered on a banquet of burnished red leather in the Oyster Bar Saloon, where my thoughts could drift idly, perhaps aided by a rye whiskey neat, to the singular career of Gores, who was among the American serviceman stationed at Blechley Park during the war, and who participated in the codebreaking operation Ultra—which as you may recall broke the communications of the German High Command—before returning to the States to enter into architectural practice with Philip Johnson (reformed fascist), only to find his professional life cut short by a case of polio, one of the last before the introduction of Salk's vaccine, that left his body, half paralyzed—in all, i'm sure you will agree, a bizarrely tragic sequence of events, and one that put me in mind of your own history, given the convergence of themes: architecture, train stations, Nazis, meandering sentences that seem to go hither and tither, with no terminal point anywhere on the horizon. Anyway, hope you're tops!

Mark Lamster

Zora Neale Hurston | Their Eyes Were Watching God | 1937

Dear Janie,

I used to think you and I were so different. So much divided us in terms of race and class and time and space. About two years ago I was very far away from you, I thought. I was working in Chicago at an advertising agency and had just started dating a guy who I will call Stuart. He was in finance. He had big plans. He used to come over to my small apartment and go on for a half-hour about the way he'd take control of the world. I believed him, and more than that -- he made me kind of drunk with the way that he could put the world in his sights. We got married. It was fantastic for a while. He wanted me day and night. That's too delicate. I am slipping back into something people would say in the thirties. He liked to have sex. He wanted my body. Once he put his hand up my skirt in a movie theatre and that was thrilling. But then about six months ago Stuart just shut off to me. It happened almost overnight. Now he won't let me talk, either to him or to anyone else. I mean it. When he catches me talking to someone on the street or the phone he glares at me. He's Joe Starks, come back to life, which I guess means I'm you. What happened to Joe? He took sick and died, right? And Tea Cake came after that?


Sylvia Plath | The Bell Jar | 1963

Dear Philomena Guinea,

I would like to register a complaint. I hope that my formal tone doesn't give you the idea that I am joking. I am dead serious. Leaving aside the issue of whether or not Esther should have been prescribed ECT, or whether Dr. Nolan's views of mental illness were progressive or regressive -- I know, times change, and attitudes change -- I simply don't understand the terms under which you paid for her care. I get that you were once a young woman like her, and I guess that I understand your vested interest in her creative development, but for the life of me I cannot grasp why you would not have acted exactly the same had her breakdown been caused by a romantic entanglement rather than frustration over her writing. Let's look at this logically. In one case, say, there is a young woman who downs a number of sleeping pills because she cannot articulate the sadness that resides at the depth of her soul. In another, she downs those same pills because a boy, say, had intercourse with her and then told her friends that he did not care about her. Why is one of those women worthy of your beneficence and the other not? I have asked around, and a woman whose advice I value told me that it is precisely this myopia that makes you a "fascinating" and "conflicted" character, but I think it might just make you a capricious harridan. I object strenuously.


Yann Martel | Life of Pi | 2001

Dear Pi,

Go ahead and blame the tiger, but I’m not buying it.

Florence Goethals

Saul Bellow | Herzog | 1964

Dear Mr. Herzog,

I suppose we all become overwhelmed at times by the desire to explain, to plead, to pronounce. And to ask. Ever to ask. But we do not merely ask; we burn with the desire of knowing. We ache from the knowledge that what we seek is unknowable and we scream our questions, ever into the abyss.

But I think I know what's eating you.

Does size really matter to her? You bet it does, my friend. Oh, yes. And lasting power! Don't be a minuteman! And that's why, for Cialis or Viagra, or any of your other needs, visit! Real name brands for cheap cheap cheap!

Jess Walter

Haruki Murakami | The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle | 1997

Dear Toru-san,

Please forgive me contacting you unannounced. If my overture is undesirable, do not hesitate to erase this letter and my name from your memory.

I continue to feel sad and confused about your missing cat, Noboru Wataya. I can almost hear his distinctive meow in my imagination (if only I could see a photo). What happened to him, and to your wife? How you are feeling now?

I know you have been meeting a lot of strange people, and you always seem so open to new experiences, so I thought I¹d take a chance and invite you to my home for a simple spaghetti dinner. There, I hope you might reveal the truth behind this mystery. I also have my own theories, so perhaps we will have a true meeting of minds.

If not, we¹ll at least have some pasta to enjoy (it¹s a recipe from a restaurant in Italy I went to last summer), and I¹ll play the latest recording of the London Symphony so we have the option of listening instead of talking.

I so look forward to your reply.

Christine Thomas

P.S.: I will also turn off my phone so mysterious callers don¹t interrupt us.

Boris Pasternak | Doctor Zhivago | 1957

Dear Yurii Andreievich,

It’s been too long! So many cold winters, an endless barrage of battles—family life has really taken a back seat, hasn’t it?

Listen, I’m heading up to Varykino soon and hoped you might want to keep me company in the sled. Think about it—snow drifts, wild wolves, distant memories of what was and shall never again be. Sounds breathtaking, no?

When we get there, we’ll light a fire, open a bottle, have some laughs. You could read some poems if you want. I don’t mind. And if the ol’ balalaika’s still laying around, I might pick out a note or two. What do you say?

Also, could you take a look at this corn on my left foot when you get the chance? Hardly a war wound, but the little bugger chafes in the boot something awful. You study any podiatry?

Looking forward to the sleigh ride. It’s all about the journey.


P.S. That Lara sure was a looker, huh? You two ever hook up?

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

L. Frank Baum | The Wonderful Wizard Of Oz | 1900

Dear Dorothy,

Auntie Em wrote and said you were recovering from the concussion and could have visitors soon. Hope you are feeling lots better.

I can't wait to see you. I had the strangest dream the other night during the storm -- and you were in it! You had on the cutest red shoes. I'm going to look in the Sears catalog and see if I can find some like them.

Hope to see you next month if not before. Things very dull and dry in Wichita since the drought. Tumbleweeds everywhere. Better than twisters, though.

Hugs to you and Toto.

Nancy Pate

P.S. Have you ever heard of flying monkeys?

Richard Scarry | Cars and Trucks and Things That Go | 1974

Dear Lowly Worm,

We've never met, but I'm a big fan of yours and wanted to seek your advice. I'm looking to purchase a new car, and for a while I've admired your little four-wheeled apple number. At first I wanted a hybrid, perhaps a Prius, but considering Toyota's recent troubles, and all the toxic material that goes into those batteries, I began fishing around for an alternative. Then it hit me...Apple Car! Compact, nutritious, and still in a sporty red (or Eco Conscious Granny Smith, should I so choose).

Still, I have a few questions for you. How's the handling? I see that the wheelbase is rather compact, but the apple itself is kind of tall. Any balance issues I should be aware of?

Also, what aerodynamic properties does that leaf on the car's roof afford? Does is function as a spoiler, or is it mostly cosmetic? Can it be used to increase cell phone reception?

Are the chassis and body organic? I'm really into organic these days, and local if possible, though I understand that most apple cars are made in Argentina. Such a shame.

Finally, how does it fare with the ladies? Because at first glance it's kind of emasculating, like that Smart Car. But you're a man of style, what with the feather in your cap, and that dope Brooklyn bowtie, and I figure you get all sorts of hipster worm tail. Am I wrong bro?

Safe Driving,
David Sax

Arthur Conan Doyle | The Hound of the Baskervilles | 1902

Dear Dr. Watson,

I have been following your work for some time now. Although I enjoy hearing of your exploits with your friend Mr. Holmes, it seems you are relatively silent when it comes to your own tales. Do you have any exciting stories from your time in Afghanistan and the east? It must have been something to see the influence of a tiny island effected half-way around the world. I wonder, was it difficult to live in such an exotic locale? Is there anything you miss about it? You must have had your pick of the most delicious teas of the region. I, myself, am a self-proclaimed theic, though I trust you will agree with me on the restorative powers of the tea leaf.

I can only imagine the difficulty you must have living with Mr. Holmes. Based on your descriptions, he is never satisfied. And I must apologize for my contemporaries who have portrayed you as a bit daft. There is something that makes this generation praise the troubled and belittle the steady. Those of us who are paying attention, and there are many, know that a man who is a doctor, who has served overseas, and who has earned the friendship and trust of an individual as intelligent and manic as Mr. Holmes, must himself be a man of the highest order and given to his own scientific discoveries and bouts of logic equally deserving of acclaim.

I wish you the best in your endeavors,
Meaghan Walsh

Benjamin Kunkel | Indecision | 2005

Dear Dwight Wilmerding,

Grow a pair.


Katherine Dunn | Geek Love | 1989

Dear Olympia,

I have been thinking about you lately.

I lost my job recently and I spend most of my afternoons and evenings watching television. You could say it has been a kind of therapy. I’m mostly watching reality shows, you know the kind where everyone backstabs their friends and they end up in fighting matches and turning tables over in public restaurants. I thought it would make me feel better but I was wrong. People are hideous. Oh, they LOOK fine, with their shiny eyes and hair and all, but God, they are grotesque. I know they’re probably getting paid nicely and the attention can’t be beat, but what about dignity?

Oly, if anyone knows, you do, what fame can do to a person and his family. Arty sold his soul. How’s that going for him? You were different. You always had such class about you. You seemed to be able to stand tall even when the world was against you. You, my friend, inspire me. You are beautiful.

I have to go now, my show is on. It’s the one about the “little” couple who own a chocolate shop. Thinking of you.

Elena Montero

Thomas McGuane | The Bushwhacked Piano | 1971

Dear Payne,

I turned sixty-five last month. My children came to see me. My ex-wife called and told me that I am the same person, in good and bad ways, as when I was thirty. My current wife bought me a Cartier Caliber 1904MC. I pretended to be happy about all of it but I am not very happy about any of it. I noticed that some of the other letters here are preoccupied with age, in one way or another, and it makes sense. I had a professor once who said that "Age is the book that we are all writing." It sounded so wise at the time. Now I think he was an idiot, which doesn't mean that he was wrong.

Anyway, I am digressing. I first read your book in my late twenties, and I have returned to it every few years, when the rest of my life starts to get too gray. I won't tell you exactly where I live or where I work, because I want to protect people, but through all of it -- the two marriages, the four affairs, the children, the job, building the house, helping to rehab my first brother-in-law's 1956 Chevy Nomad, the year in there I took too many painkillers, the year I got fat -- I can't get used to the idea that this is all there is, which is why I keep coming back to your book. You don't seem to understand much either, but you make me laugh deeply. This time I stopped at the part where you are taking a new job and imagining that it will make Ann love you. I will quote back to you because it is so satisfying: "Implacably, he" -- that's you -- "would bring himself to Ann's attention in a way that reached beyond mere argument and calling of the police."

My middle son is a writer, and when I sent him this sentence, he said "the 'of' makes all the difference in the world." That made me proud of him, and made things a little less gray, for a few minutes. They'll go gray again, though.


Friday, May 7, 2010

Agatha Christie | The ABC Murders | 1936

Dear Hercule Poirot,

Tell Franklin Clarke I'm waiting.

Zachary Zahn

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Gabriel Garcia Marquez | "Eva Is Inside Her Cat" | 1948

Dear Eva,

The other day I was eating an orange and I thought of you. How could I not? My cat was not in the room. It was in the other room, sleeping with my girlfriend. Her name is not Eva. It's Melissa. I like your name better than hers. Please don't tell her I said that. She'll know I've been drinking. It's whiskey, like always.

I am not a man who is given much to flights of fancy, to be honest. I turned forty-five last week and didn't even have a party, because I didn't want people asking me things like "What are you going to do this year?" or "What are your regrets?" Both of those require imagination, and imagination is taxing. Already, this letter is a little flowery for my tastes. I blame you. In my normal life, I write lots of legal disclaimers for the company where I work. An example of something I might write is "We do not collect personal information unless our visitors voluntarily provide it to us."

A while ago, when I was younger, I used to do quite a bit of reading. I don't anymore. One of the things I read, and loved, is the story you're in. It disturbed me deeply. I'm not even sure I remember it perfectly, but when I was asked to write a letter to someone from a story, you're the first one who sprang to mind. As best as I can recall, you wandered around your house, oppressed by the fact that you were so beautiful, thinking of a boy who you loved but who had died. He was buried under an orange tree so oranges became a big obsession for you, and you decided that you had to have one to remember that bond. At some point along the way, you died. I think you killed yourself with rat poison. Your spirit or soul floated around the house, and you became more and more fixated on the orange. The only way you could eat it was to enter a body, and there weren't any people in sight, so you went into your cat. The cat liked mice so it didn't want the orange.

This is all I remember about your story. Like I said, I have a pretty boring life these days, me and the law, me and the girlfriend, me and the cat. I never married, you know. That seemed like an act of imagination that was beyond me.

I don't know, Eva. You are beautiful and I've been drinking and it's time for me to go.


Herman Melville | Moby-Dick | 1851

Dear Captain Ahab,

Hi. My name is Lucy. I am nineteen years old and I live in Milford, Connecticut. I had to read the book about you in high school last year, and as a result I have generally positive feelings about you. I admire your drive and your commitment, and I even think that you are the kind of man I might be interested in romantically. Boys my age can be so immature. When I talked about this with my friends, they wrinkled up their noses, and not in the good way. My closest friend, Kelly, said "Do you think you could be with a guy with one leg?" I said something about sure and how it would be kind of an honor to help you walk around and get into and out of the car. "No," she said. "That's not what I mean. I mean do it with a guy with one leg. Ew." Then she left to go to work: she is a waitress at a place near the water that has really great clam chowder that you, being a sailor, would probably like. I didn't think much of her comment until last night, when I was in bed, letting my mind wander. And then the saddest thing happened. I started to agree with Kelly. I mean, I still think it's sexy and everything, like a tattoo, but what if you were in bed with me, and I rolled over, and I saw the stump? In the immortal words of Kelly, ew.

Lucy Powell