Tag Archives: Letters

Letters of Note: Love. Compiled by Shaun Usher.

Letters of Note - Love - Compiled by Shaun Usher Title: Letters of Note: Love
Compiled by Shaun Usher
Publisher: Canongate Books
ISBN: 9781786895325
Genre: Compilation, Letters
Pages: 144
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4

I was sixteen. He was twenty-five. It was the first time I wrote a love-letter and sent it to someone. I never got a reply. But I continued writing and sending love-letters to various men after that. I think this happened till the Internet took over my life, but that’s not the point I am trying to make here. What I’m saying is that there was a different kind of charm when it came to those letters – I am not romanticizing it one bit, but I guess in retrospect even the scratching and cutting out of phrases and sometimes being candid enough to tell all you felt for the person made you want to not send the letter. You get the drift

About ten days ago, I finished reading “Letters of Note: Love” – compiled by Shaun Usher and all I wanted to do was to reread those thirty letters all over again. Each of these letters is painfully beautiful and expresses love the manner in which I always fall short of words.

From Rilke’s lover expressing her love to him after he died to Steinbeck’s letter to his son speaking about love and heartbreak, to even my personal favorite – one from Vita Sackville-West to Woolf, each of these letters definitely talk of love, but in the most gracious and heartfelt manner.

I don’t know how they did it back in the day when letters used to be written, but they sure knew how to make words seem extraordinary. Whether it is Nabokov writing to his wife, or Johnny Cash to June Carter, each letter is unique, each expressing love in a different manner. No two letters are similar. The language of love and of the heart remains the same.

If you enjoy this (which I am sure you will), do check out Letters of Note, and More Letters of Note – both compiled by Shaun Usher.

Dear Me: A Letter To My Sixteen Year Old Self : Edited by Joseph Galliano

Dear Me - Edited by Joseph Galliano Title: Dear Me: A Letter to My Sixteen-Year-Old Self
Author: Edited by Joseph Galliano
Publisher: Simon and Schuster Limited
ISBN: 9781847377661
Genre: Non-Fiction, Letters
Pages: 128
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 4/5

“If you wrote a letter to your sixteen-year-old self, what would it say?”

That is the premise of the book, “Dear Me” – Edited by Joseph Galliano. What would you tell your sixteen year old self anyway? What would you stop him or her from doing, which you know will be futile anyway, because he or she will not listen to the older you? The book is of famous people – of celebrities writing to their younger self, dispensing advice, providing nuggets of wisdom and trying to go back in time and perhaps contemplate on how life was.

The book is a revelation of sorts and at other times, I was tempted enough to pick up the notepad and write a letter to my sixteen-year-old self. There were letters that stood out – the ones by Elton John, Emma Thompson, James Woods, Jodi Picoult, and so many more. There are 75 letters in all, written by celebrities from various fields – from actors to comedians to novelists, they all are written depicting youth and what is called growing-up.

These letters touch on issues that are still prevalent – from gay rights to racism to being felt left out – the letters provide a sense of warmth and at the same time you empathize with at least a few of them, because you have gone through the same.

“Dear Me” is a bitter-sweet journey through life, sometimes scarily a reflection of your own. It is a book of letters, of contemplation, of thoughts and ideas. Joseph Galliano has done a wonderful job of editing this book and somehow compels you to write a letter to your sixteen-year-old self, sharing your fears and maybe consoling him or her – to let them know that it will all be alright, after all.

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Book Review: The Animals: Love Letters Between Christopher Isherwood & Don Bachardy: Edited by Katherine Bucknell

The Animals - Edited by Katherine Bucknell Title: The Animals: Love Letters Between Christopher Isherwood & Don Bachardy
Edited by: Katherine Bucknell
Publisher: Chatto & Windus
ISBN: 9780701186784
Genre: Non-Fiction, Letters
Pages: 528
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5/5

This has to be one of the best non-fiction books I have read this year. Or rather one of the best books of letters which I have read in a very long time. “The Animals” – Love Letters between Christopher Isherwood and his long-standing lover Don Bachardy is a treat for anyone who loves being in love and reading about unconventional (so to say) love.

Christopher Isherwood was an acclaimed writer when he met Don Bachardy on a Santa Monica beach in 1952 and their love affair – or rather romance – or just love lasted until Chris’s death in 1986.

The book is about letters – they wrote to each other and the names they gave each other. Chris was Dobbins – the work horse while Don was Kitty – the young cat. The letters in themselves are sometimes calm and sometimes tumultuous and full of despair, jealousy and anger. It is the usual letters that lovers write and also somewhere down the line; they are unusual, given the nature of their relationship and the but obvious age-gap.

The letters make you ponder about the times they lived in, how they loved and how they did not fear to live as a couple – given the social thinking in the 50s. They wavered and fought like any other couple. They had their differences and yet somehow in the letters, you see the great love between them. Something that we all want to achieve. It did take me some time to get through the letters, however the experience has been extremely rewarding. The idea of getting to know Isherwood more and his relationships was intriguing for me and I am only glad that I read this book.

I will recommend it only to people who are interested in a book of this nature. Of a different love in a different time and age.

Book Review: Frances and Bernard by Carlene Bauer

Frances and Bernard Title: Frances and Bernard
Author: Carlene Bauer
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
ISBN: 978-0547858241
Pages: 208
Genre: Literary Fiction
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5/5

This has to be hands down one of the best books I’ve read this year. I am not a fan of epistolary novels however this one grasped my attention and did not let it go, till I had finished the book. There are very few books that manage to do that. This is one of them. “Frances and Bernard” by Carlene Bauer is more than just an epistolary novel. It is also a literary homage of sorts to two giants – Flannery O’Connor and Robert Lowell, on whom the characters are based. This made the book twice as much fantastical for me.

Frances and Bernard are very different from each other (but of course, they couldn’t have been similar, given the nature of this book). They meet at a writer’s colony in the summer of 1957 and begin their correspondence. They meet some more times after that and recognize a kindred spirit in each other. They write about almost everything to each other – from friends, to lovers, to affairs, to their writing, their pitfalls, about their manuscripts and even their faith. There are other people whose letters are also in so the reader gets a complete understanding of Frances and Bernard – there is Claire, Frances’ best friend, Bernard’s friend Ted and their joint publisher John. Reading the letters is the perfect way to get into the skin of characters. It is the difference in the characters’ views and opinions that make the story what it is.

The book by covering almost every ground (as mentioned in the above paragraph) only shows us a glimpse of what Bauer’s writing is capable of. The voyeuristic urge is present in every single one of us and novels such as these only cater to them and sometimes even succeed brilliantly in satisfying them. The letters are sometimes rich in their content and sometimes flippant and yet that is what will keep the reader going with every turn of the page. The entire novel is formatted very well and doesn’t seem hurried or too slow. The pace is just perfect.

The love of reading and writing is what struck me and stayed with me long after I had finished reading the book. The ending is unpredictable (of course) and for throughout the novel I could almost imagine Flannery and Lowell sharing correspondences of this nature. As a reader, I could only hoot again and again for the written word and I hope that more people read this gem of a book.

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Book Review: Griffin & Sabine: An Extraordinary Correspondence by Nick Bantock

Griffin & Sabine by Nick Bantock

Title: Griffin & Sabine: An Extraordinary Correspondence
Author: Nick Bantock
Publisher: Chronicle Books
ISBN: 978-0877017882
Genre: Graphic Book
Pages: 48
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 5/5

I remember being introduced to “Griffin & Sabine: An Extraordinary Correspondence” by Nick Bantock, way back in 2000 by a colleague at Crossword Book Store at Mahalaxmi (I worked there part-time for a bit) and I cannot thank her enough for the recommendation. Since then I have read two trilogies of Griffin and Sabine and can never get enough of these books. This is the first time after ages I decided to revisit them and here I was at the start of the year, with my second read: “Griffin & Sabine”.

It will be very difficult for me to review this book. Not because it was a difficult read, but because it always manages to shake me up. It manages to leave me breathless – in its writing and through its images. Yes, it is a sort of a graphic novel and at the same time, it is so much more. “Griffin & Sabine” as the title suggests is about two people – Griffin, a postcard artist in London and Sabine, a stamp designer in a small Pacific island.

They are lovers. They have never met. They correspond through letters and postcards. There is however one more detail to it, concerning Sabine which I will not disclose through the review. I would urge you to read the book and find that out. Lovers love, irrespective of distances, they do and this is one element of the first trilogy. After reading the first book, you would want to go out and read all of them. That is one thing I can guarantee for sure.

Bantock makes the reader/s believe in love that surpasses time and transcends the thought process of the “email” generation and takes it back to letter writing. The structure of the book in itself is unique. One can see the beautiful images and open the letters from the envelopes and read them. The first time I read the book, I almost felt like I was eavesdropping or sneaking on someone else’s life.


The grand illusion of love is forever present in the book and one can see it – in the colours, in the words and sense it through the emotions of both characters and yet there is also hopefulness which propels the reader, through the book and sometimes life. The book is like love waves crashing against the rocks, knowing that someday something will come out of it. The day I finished reading this book, I recommended it to so many people. I just had to; because I knew that everyone can connect with the book. It is but after all trying to define love, to mould it and to feel it. So do yourself a favour and read this. You just have to.

You can also know more about the series and Bantock’s other books here:

Nick Bantock’s Website

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