The Power of a Letter
Before the age of iPhone detoxes, matters both serious and lighthearted were messaged on paper–there was no other way around it. Today, letters, notes, and poems written on paper pack that much more of a punch. In Letters of Note: An Eclectic Collection of Correspondence Deserving of a Wider Audience, Shaun Usher expertly curates over 125 letters that stand out in history. From Queen Elizabeth II’s recipe for drop scones to Kurt Vonnegut’s impassioned plea to a North Dakota school leader to stop burning copies of Slaughterhouse-Five, these fascinating letters give the reader unrivaled insight into each author’s mind. A personal favorite is Ernest Hemingway’s note to F. Scott Fitzgerald, after the publication of Tender is the Night. Hemingway isn’t one to be coy about his opinions; he gives “Scott” priceless writing advice, and you can practically smell the cloud of smoke around him as he sat in front of his typewriter.
In 1958, three girlfriends in Montana banded together to write to President Eisenhower… about Elvis. More specifically, his hair. Looking at their curly-Q cursive, you’re practically expecting hearts to be dotted over the i’s. But these girls meant business. Whatever Mr. Eisenhower did with Elvis’s stint in the army, please, please, please don’t cut his sideburns off–just don’t touch the hair! “You really don’t no how we fell about him [sic],” they declared in the letter.
Twenty years before Eisenhower got letters from Elvis fans, President Roosevelt received a powerful message from 36 American writers. In 1938, Jews all over Germany were subjected to the horrific events of Kristallnacht: vicious attacks on homes, businesses, and synagogues. Over a three-page telegram, the writers cite the cruel injustices that had just begun to rock Nazi Germany as well as what they felt compelled to do to stop it. “We no longer have any right to remain silent, we feel that the American people and the American government have no right to remain silent, while a German government celebrates each of its shocking victories in the international field by the increasingly inhuman oppression of [Jews].”
The expertly compiled letters in Letters of Note captures the poetry, the hard truths, the passion, the details, and the spirit-of-the-times that can only be told on paper! This beautiful volume can be picked up here.
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