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Other People's Mail: An Anthology of Letter Storiesby Gail Pool
Synopses & Reviews
While the art and craft of letter writing have declined in this century, letter stories have thrived. Cast as love letters and Dear John letters, as thank-you notes and suicide notes, as memos, letters to the editor, and exchanges with the United States Post Office, examples of epistolary fiction have been published by the hundreds, among them the work of many of our most notable authors. Why has this form of fiction writing remained so popular? As Gail Pool answers, "Who, after all, is immune to the seduction of reading other people's mail?"
Although epistolary fiction enjoyed its greatest popularity in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, a time when letters were central to daily life, this style of writing has a decidedly postmodern air. Letter stories are about communication, and they are effective in framing our modern concerns: the struggle to find meaningful stories, relationships, and lives amid the social and moral disarray of the era and the blurred boundaries between fact and fiction, artist and audience, private and public domains. These are the themes of our time, and the themes of the stories in Other People's Mail.
Offering seventeen stories written by a culturally diverse group of authors, Other People's Mail represents what letter tales, at their best, can do. They may be written from the Canadian wilderness, a private school in Geneva, a concentration camp, or beyond the grave. They may be comic or satirical, poignant or tragic, but all are united in their distinctive format.
The first collection of its kind, Other People's Mail is a unique and important anthology. Pool's highly informative introduction explores the nature of letter fiction, and her individual preface to each story provides background information on both the author and the tale. A select listing additional letter stories rounds out the anthology. Literature and writing instructors in search of a fresh approach to stories and readers looking for an anthology with a lively theme will enjoy this collection.
Book News Annotation:
Epistolary fiction, or "letter stories," enjoys continuing popularity, as demonstrated by this collection of 17 stories written by a culturally diverse group of authors. An introduction explores the nature of letter fiction, and individual prefaces to each story provide background information on both the author and the story. Lacks a subject index. Pool is instructor for the Radcliffe Seminars at Radcliffe College.
Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
About the Author
About the Editor
As a book critic, Gail Pool has long been fascinated by letter stories. As a reader, she has enjoyed them. And as a writing instructor, she has used them for reading and writing assignments. She is the author of Faint Praise: The Plight of Book Reviewing in America.
Table of Contents
A wilderness station / Alice Munro — Letters from the Samantha / Mark Helprin — The death of bed number 12 / Ghassan Kanafani — Evil star / Ray Russell — The rise and fall of Mortimer Scrivens / A.A. Milne — Man of letters / Stephen Dixon — False lights / Gail Godwin — Simple arithmetic / Virginia Moriconi — Quitting smoking / Reginald McKnight — Correspondence / Donna Kline — Water / Torgny Lindgren — Peter's buddies / Michael Carson — Back on April eleventh / Hubert Aquin — Letter to a young lady in Paris / Julio Cortazar — Letter from his father / Nadine Gordimer — A letter from home / Doris Lessing — Auschwitz, our home (a letter) / Tadeusz Borowski.
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