Letters of Note: An Eclectic Collection of Correspondence Deserving of a Wider Audience [NOOK Book]

Overview

This spectacular collection of more than 125 letters offers a never-before-seen glimpse of the events and people of history—the brightest and best, the most notorious, and the endearingly everyday. Entries include a transcript of the letter; a short contextual introduction; and, in 100 cases, a captivating facsimile of the letter itself. The artfulness of Shaun Usher's eclectic arrangement creates a reading experience rich in discovery. Mordant, hilarious, poignant, enlightening—surprise rewards each turn of the ...
See more details below
Letters of Note: An Eclectic Collection of Correspondence Deserving of a Wider Audience

Available on NOOK devices and apps  
  • NOOK Devices
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 NOOK 7.0
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 NOOK 10.1
  • NOOK HD Tablet
  • NOOK HD+ Tablet
  • NOOK eReaders
  • NOOK Color
  • NOOK Tablet
  • Tablet/Phone
  • NOOK for Windows 8 Tablet
  • NOOK for iOS
  • NOOK for Android
  • NOOK Kids for iPad
  • PC/Mac
  • NOOK for Windows 8
  • NOOK for PC
  • NOOK for Mac
  • NOOK for Web

Want a NOOK? Explore Now

NOOK Book (eBook)
$3.99
BN.com price
(Save 85%)$27.99 List Price

Overview

This spectacular collection of more than 125 letters offers a never-before-seen glimpse of the events and people of history—the brightest and best, the most notorious, and the endearingly everyday. Entries include a transcript of the letter; a short contextual introduction; and, in 100 cases, a captivating facsimile of the letter itself. The artfulness of Shaun Usher's eclectic arrangement creates a reading experience rich in discovery. Mordant, hilarious, poignant, enlightening—surprise rewards each turn of the page. Colorfully illustrated with photographs, portraits, and relevant artworks, Letters of Note is an instant classic.
Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
★ 06/01/2014
Based on the blog of the same name, this collection of letters is so handsome that it looks like a coffee-table book, but it's more than that. In it, Queen Elizabeth II sends a note to President Dwight Eisenhower reflecting on Mamie and Ike's visit to Balmoral Castle: she appends her recipe for scones. The chairman of the Whitehall Vigilance Committee receives a package with a note from Jack the Ripper accompanied by half a human kidney, pickled in wine: "I fried and ate it was very nise." Gandhi appeals to Hitler as the only one who can avert the impending war. Bank robber Clyde Barrow tells Henry Ford he only drives Fords. Francis Crick alerts his son about DNA. A wife writes to her samurai husband on the eve of battle (he died in the fighting, she committed suicide) and an ex-slave addresses his former master. This treasure trove of fascinating material includes more than 125 letters from both the famous and the unknown dating as far back as 1340 BCE, many reproduced in facsimile. VERDICT A beautiful collection that should appeal to everyone. Start reading it and you're lost.—David Keymer, Modesto, CA
From the Publisher
Starred Review " Based on the blog of the same name, this collection of letters is so handsome that it looks like a coffee-table book, but it's more than that. In it, Queen Elizabeth II sends a note to President Dwight ­Eisenhower reflecting on ­Mamie and Ike's visit to ­Balmoral Castle: she appends her recipe for scones. The chairman of the Whitehall Vigilance Committee receives a package with a note from Jack the Ripper accompanied by half a human kidney, pickled in wine: "I fried and ate it was very nise." Gandhi appeals to Hitler as the only one who can avert the impending war. Bank robber Clyde Barrow tells Henry Ford he only drives Fords. ­Francis Crick alerts his son about DNA. A wife writes to her samurai husband on the eve of battle (he died in the fighting, she committed suicide) and an ex-slave addresses his former master. This treasure trove of fascinating material includes more than 125 letters from both the famous and the unknown dating as far back as 1340 BCE, many reproduced in facsimile.A beautiful collection that should appeal to everyone. Start reading it and you're lost. "
- Library Journal

holiday Gift Guide Pick "Usher has been showcasing epistles on his website for years; now 125 of his favorites, written by the likes of Katherine Hepburn, Fidel Castro and Richard Feynman, are gathered in this incomparable compendium of human relationships and emotion."
-Time Out NY

Holiday Gift Guide Pick
"Shaun Usher's glorious selection of letters from writers, royalty, rock stars and ordinary citizens, makes you yearn to find a witty handwritten or typed missive in your mailbox. Drawn from the blog of the same name, this lovely volume combines photographs, transcriptions and commentary. "
Newsday

"'Letters of Note' has been my favorite summer book, full of the kinds of letters I hope to find in my own mailbox, but rarely, these days, ever do."
-The Advocate

"While some might argue that the art of correspondence died with the advent of the internet, it was Letters of Note-a popular website sharing correspondence across history and spheres-that paved the way for the exceptional hardcover of the same name. The book's introduction aptly describes itself as "a museum of letters" that are as addictive as they are enlightening; featuring letters from Ernest Hemingway, Fidel Castro, Nick Cave, Elvis and more than a few world leaders.

London-based author Shaun Usher compiled the collection of over 125 letters over the course of four years and the subjects span both private and public theatrics. A letter from Elvis Presley to President Nixon is written in-flight on American Airlines stationary, in which Presley expresses his patriotism and requests to be made a Federal Agent, "just so long as it is kept very private." Each of the letters is accompanied with a contextual note from Usher that only serves to add to the fascination and potential rabbit hole of additional research readers might find themselves falling into.

From art to music, politics, history, civil rights and drawing on just about every human emotion, it's easy to get lost in the 342-page tome. Each letter tells its own stories and it is easy to find oneself interested in new subjects. Perhaps the book's greatest virtue (and that of correspondence itself) is its ability to inject individual humanity into historical events and time periods. One highlight is a letter from a free slave to his former master, kindly rejecting an offer of a job while inquiring about the family and describing his new life. These true stories-whether they're between household names or persons unknown-reflect the great importance of interpersonal communication and the beauty of long-form written conversation."
- Cool Hunting

"While a good portion of history happened out in the open, allowing it to be preserved in the history books for everyone to read for generations, still more happened in the private correspondence of people who mattered. In Letters of Note: An Eclectic Collection of Correspondence Deserving of a Wider Audience (brought to you by the creator of the blog by the same name) you'll read letters spanning across centuries, from influential political leaders, authors, actors, murderers, and more. Each one lends a unique insight into the major events of the time, whether they're wars, cultural shifts, key moments, or important discoveries. This epistolary compilation contains over 300 letters, detailing the personal thoughts of everyone from Jack the Ripper to Kurt Vonnegut."
-Uncrate

"This new book beautifully highlights fascinating letters ...The hardcover demands prime space on the coffee table."
USA Today's Pop Candy

"Someone should write a love letter to a new book called Letters of Note. It's a splendid collection of all kinds of correspondence through the ages: Elvis Presley fans writing to the president, children making suggestions to famous cartoonists, a scientist's poignant love letter to his late wife."
- A Way With Words

"It's the kind of book you'll go back to again and again, and find something new every time. It's a celebration of what makes us human, and gathered together, they have a powerful effect. If nothing else, it will make you want to jot down a letter of your own."
- Yakima Herald

"It is a truly beautiful book."
-The Bookseller (UK)

"Every single epistle in Letters of Note is soul-stretching beyond measure."
-Brain Pickings

"An eloquent tribute to the lost art of letter writing."
GQ magazine (UK)

"...an anthology of Shaun Usher's wonderful blog of the same name. It's well worth picking up."
Quartz

"...a stupendous collection of memorable missives, often by famous people - and with facsimiles, each page is a marvel...Letters of Note is quite literally the most enjoyable volume it is possible to imagine."
-The Spectator (UK)

The Barnes & Noble Review

For years I worked as an archivist, a job that, in my case, amounted to sitting around reading other people's mail. I have read hundreds and hundreds of letters from countless people writing from the eighteenth century to the present and at every level of literacy, with pretty much everything you could think of on their minds. This, I believe — combined with my having edited a collection of letters myself — puts me in the position to pronounce on the subject of letter writing: It's a gift. Under some pens, a communication so routine as a business letter or thank-you note can possess originality and dash; under the dull scrape of others, even such savory subjects as adulterous love and revenge sound like boilerplate. A letter worth reading is a performance, and among many other illustrations of this truth, one of the most brilliant shows up in Letters of Note: An Eclectic Collection of Correspondence Deserving of a Wider Audience.

The epistolary masterpiece in question is a rejection letter sent to Gertrude Stein in 1912 by Arthur C. Fifield, explaining why his publishing house is turning down her novel The Making of Americans. "Dear Madam," he begins,

I am only one, only one, only one. Only one being, one at the same time. Not two, not three, only one. Only one life to live, only sixty minutes in one hour. Only one pair of eyes. Only one brain. Only one being. Being only one, having only one pair of eyes, having only one time, having only one life, I cannot read your M.S. three or four times. Not even one time. Only one look, only one look is enough. Hardly one copy would sell here. Hardly one. Hardly one.
Fifield concludes by thanking the celebrated modernist and says he's returning "[o]nly one M.S. by one post."

The other 124 contributions that make up this exceptionally handsome volume include personal letters, memos, telegrams, open letters written chiefly for political purposes, and a couple of form letters: one a good spoof from Steve Martin, the other, an ancient but still useful instrument from ninth-century China. Devised by the Dunhuang Bureau of Etiquette, it is a standardized apology for drunken behavior to be simply signed and sent. ("Yesterday having drunk too much, I was intoxicated as to pass all bounds?. The next morning, after having heard others speak on the subject?. I was ready to sink into the earth with shame.")

The book's editor, Shaun Usher, who officiates over the website Letters of Note, has provided a short, informative, and spirited introduction to each letter. A number of the entries are here because of their momentous subject matter: There is a telegram reporting the bombing of Pearl Harbor, another signed by thirty-six writers and sent to President Franklin D. Roosevelt after Kristallnacht in November 1938, asking him to speak out against the German government's persecution of Jews and to sever trade relations between the two countries. There is an arresting memo of July 18, 1969, from William Safire to H. R. Haldeman, Nixon's chief of staff, with the text of a short speech to be given by the president should Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin be stranded on the moon. ("Fate has ordained that the men who went to the moon to explore in peace will stay on the moon to rest in peace-or every human being who looks up at the moon in the nights to come will know that there is some corner of another world which is forever mankind.") If that composition proved unnecessary, another was necessary but went unheeded: the famous memo from an engineer at Morton Thiokol, written six months before the Challenger disaster. In it he warns his superiors that the O rings on the solid rocket boosters on the Space Shuttles could fail: "The result would be a catastrophe of the highest order — loss of human life."

Many of the letters here are reproduced in facsimile (as well as in transcript and translation when necessary), providing a look at some messy handwriting (Mario Puzo's, for instance) and some very tidy examples; most surprising, perhaps, is Fidel Castro's careful schoolboy hand. Writing at age fourteen, the future revolutionary asks President Roosevelt for "ten dollars bill green American," offering to show him "the bigest (minas) of iron of the land." Less unexpected is Annie Oakley's sprinting penmanship, found here offering President McKinley the services of "a company of fifty lady sharpshooters" to help out in the Spanish- American War.

Elsewhere, Abraham Lincoln hears from a girl who advises him to grow whiskers: "All the ladies like whiskers and they would tease their husbands to vote for you and then you would be President." Richard Nixon is told to eat his vegetables and, some time later, gets a confidential request from Elvis Presley, asking to be made a "Federal Agent at Large." Dwight Eisenhower receives an imploring letter from three Presley fans, begging him to let their idol keep his sideburns when he enters the army, and Jackie Robinson chides him for asking African Americans to have patience about desegregation. A couple of years later, Queen Elizabeth II sends Eisenhower her recipe for scones.

Love letters, which I am guessing make up the majority of the personal letters written today (with letters of umbrage running second by a slim margin) are present, and they are, to say the least, fraught. Emily Dickinson writes passionately to her sister-in-law, and a German woman in a mental hospital writes two words over and over to her husband: "Sweetheart, come." Zelda Fitzgerald, after a blow-up with Scott, declares that she needs him so badly that she wouldn't mind if he was "covered in sores like a leper." Rebecca West, given the hook by that smug bounder H. G. Wells, combines love with acid: "Your spinsterishness," she informs him, "makes you feel that a woman desperately and hopelessly in love with a man is an indecent spectacle and a reversal of the natural order of things."

The selection shows again that absence strengthens love, and never more so when brought about by death. Heartfelt letters to dead lovers come from physicist Richard Feynman writing to his wife and Katharine Hepburn to Spencer Tracy. A pregnant sixteenth- century Korean widow implores her deceased husband to come to her in her dreams. In fact, death is all around us in this volume: other suicidal correspondents include a seventeenth-century Japanese woman writing to her slain samurai husband, saying she is going to kill herself to join him. Virginia Woolf writes to Leonard about how she can't live with her madness, and a kamikaze pilot tells his two young children that he will be watching over them as a god and instructs his five-year-old son to "be an unbeatable person like your father and avenge my death." Robert Falcon Scott, freezing and starving in the Antarctic, writes a farewell letter to his wife, and someone at the FBI (as it turns out) writes anonymously to Martin Luther King Jr., advising him to commit suicide.

Other entries include witheringly caustic letters from former slaves to the people who have enslaved them, one answering the demand from the writer's former "owner" that he pay her $1,000 for the horse he rode off on. Her letter is included, and it is a true monument to oblivious self-centeredness. The other former slave writes (or dictates) with a keen ironic edge that is a match for Mark Twain's or Jonathan Swift's. His letter purports to answer the request from his former master that he return to the Tennessee plantation because he is desperately needed there. This former master's letter is not reproduced here, and I have found no sign that it ever actually existed. As the response was, apparently, published in many northern newspapers, I believe that it is probably not, in fact, half of a correspondence but a work of satire, and a truly brilliant one at that.

Letters written by individuals in their own voices to specific people, relating recent events, remind one what the best letters used to achieve before the telephone and cheap long-distance calling arrived to blow personal correspondence to smithereens. Such letters are usually best appreciated in collections devoted to one writer, as in that way the characters of the writer and recipients emerge, as does the development of themes, recurrent jokes, and allusions. The letters of Evelyn Waugh, Dawn Powell, Flannery O'Connor, and E. B. White are examples of great collections; and while this volume includes a sole example from each of the last two named, they are rather etiolated outside the context of their authors' great flow of correspondence.

Still, we do have some fine personal letters of the sort I like best: Alec Guinness, in a chatty letter to a friend, mentions in passing what became the first Star Wars movie and his role as Obi- Wan Kenobi: "I am enjoying the film, — new rubbish dialogue reaches me every other day on wadges of pink paper — and none of it makes my character clear or even bearable." There is also a hair- raising account of an operation for breast cancer performed in 1855 on the woman writing the letter; a long description by Aldous Huxley's wife of her husband's last days and death (palliated by LSD); and Kurt Vonnegut writing to his family about his experiences as a German prisoner of war, the firebombing of Dresden, and its terrible aftermath. That last, a triumph of ghoulishness and deadpan irony, is an outstanding performance. Fittingly, it concludes the volume.

Katherine A. Powers reviews books widely and has been a finalist for the Nona Balakian Citation for Excellence in Reviewing from the National Book Critics Circle. She is the editor of Suitable Accommodations: An Autobiographical Story of Family Life: The Letters of J. F. Powers, 1942–1963.

Reviewer: Katherine A. Powers

Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781452140865
  • Publisher: Chronicle Books LLC
  • Publication date: 5/6/2014
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Sales rank: 80,938
  • File size: 53 MB
  • Note: This product may take a few minutes to download.

Meet the Author

Shaun Usher founded the blog-based archive Letters of Note, hugely popular internationally. He lives in Manchester, England.
Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 5
( 3 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(3)

4 Star

(0)

3 Star

(0)

2 Star

(0)

1 Star

(0)

Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Noble.com Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & Noble.com that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & Noble.com does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at BN.com or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation

Reminder:

  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & Noble.com and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Noble.com Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & Noble.com reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & Noble.com also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on BN.com. It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

 
Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously
Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 5, 2014

    I opened this book last night and could not put it down. The sco

    I opened this book last night and could not put it down. The scope of these letters runs from the horrifying (letter possibly from Jack the Ripper) to the charming (letter from an eight year old boy to Richard Nixon commiserating with him about his pneumonia.)
    The intimacy and honest revelations about and by the rich, the famous, the ignoble, the humble, the obscure, the better knowns and the lesser knowns make for fascinating reading. I can see myself return to this book time and again.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 26, 2014

    This is an amazing book. The arrangement of the letters keeps d

    This is an amazing book. The arrangement of the letters keeps drawing you in; you cannot quit reading. It gives such insight and entertains. Of course, it makes you laugh and cry because it is the essence of the people.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted July 25, 2014

    Highly Recommended

    This book is wonderful. I find it hard to put down once I pick it up. There's always another letter I just have to look at before i lay the book aside until later. And then another... The illustrations add a great deal of enjoyment to the content of the letters.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews

If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
Why is this product inappropriate?
Comments (optional)