MORE LETTERS OF NOTE is the second collection of letters curated by Shaun Usher, it is a large coffee table book that covers over one hundred letters from renowned people. Before handing it to your lovely reviewer for this book, Kernel Morgan, I read most of them myself and just loved the reading of history from normal people who also happen to be famed people from our history and current lives. To me this would be the ideal Christmas present to the elder intellectual, something that would be a joy to read the letters of the past. Morgan nearly never received it, the book is awesome :). It is out now from the fine folks at Allen and Unwin and you can locate the book in stores or you can grab it HERE. Enjoy Morgan’s thoughts on the book……..all the best…….JK.
MORE LETTERS OF NOTE by Shaun Usher is a collection of 122 real life historical letters between people of note – including Hellen Keller, Richard Burton, Ayn Rand, Ursula Le Guin, David Bowie, Charles Lamb, Wordsworth, Mozart, Eleanor Roosevelt, Florence Nightingale, Victor Hugo, John Lennon, Janis Joplin, Tennesee Williams, Evelyn Waugh, Ansel Adams, David Foster Wallace, and Matt Stone.
This is a big hardcover book from Unbound, a new kind of publishing house that uses crowdfunding, reader subscribers, and a website asking for feedback on potential projects. In the back-matter of the book there are seven pages of subscriber names. Unbound had about 1,400 subscribers supporting the publication of this project. ****Ed’s note – it is published and distributed by Allen and Unwin in Australia 🙂
The compiler, Shaun Usher, runs two blogs that have been the basis of his books: www.lettersofnote.com and www.listsofnote.com. He is @lettersofnote on Twitter. In the acknowledgements he dedicates the book to his wife and mother of his children Karina and says she is “the person I fell in love with by letter in 2002 whilst we lived hundreds of miles apart.”
The format of the book is clean and uniform. If the letters are typed and in a legible condition they take up one page as an exact scan of the paper and lettering. Some of the handwritten or more difficult to decipher type (due to folds in old paper etc) take up two pages, one with a scan of the original, and the other with the content transcribed. Some that don’t have an actual scan of the letter feature a historical photograph on the opposite page instead,
Each letter is assigned a chronological number for where it sits in the book and is given a title that captures the essence of the letter contents. Usher adds a little 150 word blurb adjacent to each heading explaining any context or trivia surrounding the events that caused the letter to be written and sent. The heading is small and in a light font, eg:
Letter No. 011 | 1984 vs. A BRAVE NEW WORLD | ALDOUS HUXLEY to GEORGE ORWELL | October 21st, 1949
“Within the next generation I believe that the world’s rulers will discover that infant conditioning and narco-hypnosis are more efficient, as instruments of government, that clubs and prisons, and that a lust for power can be just as completely satisfied by suggesting people into loving their servitude as by flogging and kicking them into obedience.”
Letter No. 047 | EVERY OUNCE OF MY ENERGY |BERTRAND RUSSELL to SIR OSWALD MOSLEY | January 22nd, 1962
“It is not that I take exception to the general points made by you but that every ounce of my energy has been devoted to an active opposition to cruel bigotry, compulsive violence, and the sadistic persecution which has characterised the philosophy and practice of fascism.”
Letter No. 066 | I DRANK TOO MUCH WINE LAST NIGHT | JANE AUSTEN to CASSANDRA AUSTEN | November 20th, 1800
“She appeared exactly as she did in September, with the same broad face, diamond bandeau, white shoes, pink husband, and fat neck. The two Miss Coxes were there: I traced in one the remains of the vulgar, broad-featured girl who danced at Enham eight years ago; the other is refined into a nice composed looking girl … I looked at his daughter and thought her a queer animal with a white neck.”
Letter No. 070 | YOU ARE A TRUE MAN | BRAM STOKER to WALT WHITMAN | February 18th, 1872
“I have, however, the claim of liking you – for your words are your own soul and even if you do not read my letter it is no less a pleasure to me to write it. Shelley wrote to William Godwin and they have become friends. I am not Shelley and you are not Godwin and so I will only hope that sometime I may meet you face to face and perhaps shake hands with you. If I ever do it will be one of the greatest pleasures of my life.”
(Stoker published Dracula in 1897 after meeting Whitman in 1884 – in 1872 Stoker was a young government clerk)
Letter No. 089 | PEOPLE SIMPLY EMPTY OUT | CHARLES BUKOWSKI to JOHN MARTIN | August 12th, 1986
“I remember once, working as a packer in a lighting fixture company, one of the packers suddenly said: “I’ll never be free!” One of the bosses was walking by (his name was Morrie) and he let out this delicious cackle of a laugh, enjoying the fact that this fellow was trapped for life.”
(Bukowski was a 49-year-old in 1969 when Martin, a publisher, offered him $100 a month for the rest of his life if he quit his job at the post office and became a full time writer.)
So many life-changing moments are captured in letters in this collection. So many prolific authors displaying their private sides, and either confirming they are like their public persona all the time, or that it is all a façade and they are secretly deeply vulnerable.
The focus of MORE LETTERS OF NOTE is mostly on literary figures, but there is also musicians, politicians, philanthropists, and actors. This book would be a great gift for history and archive lovers. It is somewhere between a large coffee table book and a selective reference book. It would be a great asset to the library of any culture-lover.
Kernel Morgan is an author of short fiction, an anthology editor, and a technical writer. Her debut collection was SNIGGERLESS BOUNDULATIONS. She enjoys scowling at children and bursting bubbles. She can be tweeted and stalked at @queenboxi.