A string of veritable psychological peaches

In 1932, renowned Swiss psychoanalyst Carl Jung wrote a largely critical piece for Europäische Revue on the subject of Ulysses, James Joyce‘s groundbreaking, controversial, and famously challenging novel. From Jung’s essay: “I read to page 135 with despair in my heart, falling asleep twice on the way. The incredible versatility of Joyce’s style has a

Ladies & Gentlemen of A.D. 2088

Back in 1988, as part of an ad campaign to be printed in Time magazine, Volkswagen approached a number of notable thinkers and asked them to write a letter to the future—some words of advice to those living in 2088, to be precise. Many agreed, including novelist Kurt Vonnegut; his letter can be read below. (Source: TIME,

Dame of what?

In 2007, when informed by reporters outside her home that she had been awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature, novelist Doris Lessing famously reacted with an endearing indifference that has since been replayed by thousands. Indeed, she later called winning the award a “bloody disaster.” 15 years before that, in 1992, she was offered the

I embrace you with all my heart

On November 7th 1913, in French Algeria, author Albert Camus was born. The second son of Lucien and Catherine Camus, he was just 11-months-old when his father was killed in action during The Battle of the Marne; his mother, partially deaf and illiterate, then raised her boys in extreme poverty with the help of his heavy-handed

My dear little grandfather

Marcel Proust was undoubtedly a gifted author, known largely for his classic multi-volume novel, In Search of Lost Time, a mammoth piece of work believed by some to be one of the greatest books ever written. More importantly, he was also, it is said, obsessed with masturbation. As a teenager this caused problems for his family, not

A book is a sneeze

In September of 1952,  a few weeks before the publication of Charlotte’s Web—the now-classic tale of a pig, Wilbur, who becomes friends with a heroic spider named Charlotte—its author, E. B. White, was asked to explain why he wrote the book by his editor at Harper & Row, Ursula Nordstrom. On the 29th of that month,

She was the music heard faintly at the edge of sound

Detective novelist Raymond Chandler‘s wife of 30 years, Cissy, died on December 12th, 1954 after a long and painful battle with pulmonary fibrosis during which the author wrote The Long Goodbye. As can be seen in the following touching and affectionate letter, written to friend Leonard Russell shortly after Cissy’s passing, Raymond was deeply affected by the loss

It is a good book

On May 22nd of 1925, the great Gertrude Stein wrote to fellow author F. Scott Fitzgerald and offered, in her own inimitable style, a brief review of his recently published novel, The Great Gatsby. It can be enjoyed below. Also of note: Fitzgerald’s editor’s reaction to an early draft of The Great Gatsby, here, and a rejection letter once sent

A squeal of pain

Prominent English novelist Vita Sackville-West’s marriage to Sir Harold Nicolson was the very definition of an open one, with both partners happily enjoying extramarital relationships for much of the 49 years they spent together. In the early-1920s, Vita began what was to be her most famous affair, with Virginia Woolf, the hugely influential author responsible

Don’t ever call me a liberal

Today would have been the 90th birthday of Norman Mailer, a Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist and journalist who also happened to write some enormously entertaining letters in his lifetime. Below are just three of the many thousands. The first was sent to one of his writing idols, Ernest Hemingway, along with a copy of The Deer Park;

My own darling Child

On November 29th of 1812, 36-year-old Jane Austen wrote to her good friend, Martha Lloyd, and announced that her new novel, Pride and Prejudice, had been sold — for a one-off payment of £110: “P. & P. is sold.—Egerton gives £110 for it.—I would rather have had £150, but we could not both be pleased, &

Vast riddles

In the mid-1920s, a decade prior to the release of James Joyce‘s final novel, Finnegans Wake, extracts of what was then known as his “Work in Progress” were being published in journals and passed around literary circles, to a largely baffled audience. (If you’ve never read, or attempted to read Finnegans Wake, a quick look

There’s no hope in war

In November of 1967,  Kurt Vonnegut wrote the following letter to the US government in defense of his son, Mark, who had recently refused to fight in the Vietnam War. (Source: Kurt Vonnegut: Letters–reprinted with permission.) November 28, 1967 To Draft Board #1, Selective Service,Hyannis, Mass. Gentlemen: My son Mark Vonnegut is registered with you. He is now

Another link is broken

On January 30th of 1937, two years after his older brother, Baoth, succumbed to meningitis, 16-year-old Patrick Murphy passed away following a seven year battle with tuberculosis. The boys’ 20-year-old sister, Honoria, remained. A few days later, the children’s distraught parents, Gerald and Sara Murphy, received the following letter of condolence from their friend, F. Scott

People simply empty out

In 1969, publisher John Martin offered to pay Charles Bukowski $100 each and every month for the rest of his life, on one condition: that he quit his job at the post office and become a full-time writer. 49-year-old Bukowski did exactly that, and just weeks after leaving work finished writing his first book, Post

How I would like to work for you!

In March of 1933, in an attempt to secure some work, 23-year-old Eudora Welty wrote the following charming letter to the offices of The New Yorker. Incredibly, they turned her down. Eudora went on to write numerous pieces for The New Yorker and later won multiple awards for her work, including, in 1973, the Pulitzer Prize

Some things should happen on soft pages, not cold metal

In May of 2006, 46 years after the publication of her only novel, To Kill a Mockingbird, reclusive author Harper Lee wrote the following letter to Oprah Winfrey, on the subject of reading and her love of books. It was subsequently published in Oprah’s magazine, “O.” (Source: O; Image: Harper Lee, via.) May 7, 2006

Everything comes to an end

On November 9th of 2004, Stieg Larsson — journalist and author of the posthumously published Millennium series of novels, the first of which was The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo — passed away after suffering a heart attack. He was 50-years-old. The next month, Stieg’s long-term partner, Eva Gabrielsson, found the following letter amongst his

Book-banners are invariably idiots

When, in 2007, author Pat Conroy was told by a concerned student that two of his books, The Prince of Tides and Beach Music, had been banned by the Kanawha County school board following complaints from parents, he sent the following letter to the area’s local newspaper, The Charleston Gazette, and made known his disgust

The Beauty of Words

In 1890, after living and working in the U.S. for 20 years, Greek-born Lafcadio Hearn moved to Japan and immediately fell in love with a culture and language about which he would then write until his death fourteen years later. In 1893, he sent the following wonderful letter to his friend and occasional editor, Basil

The Heinlein Maneuver

In 1962, as he gave his Guest of Honor speech at the World Science Fiction Convention in Chicago, science fiction author Theodore Sturgeon delivered the following anecdote about writer’s block and fellow novelist, Robert Heinlein: “I went into a horrible dry spell one time. It was a desperate dry spell and an awful lot depended on me

All prizes, like all titles, are dangerous

In 1926, on discovering that his novel, “Arrowsmith,” had been awarded what was then called the Pulitzer Prize for the Novel, author Sinclair Lewis wrote the following letter to the Pulitzer Prize Committee and declined the honour. He remains the only person to have done so. (Source: The Rise of Sinclair Lewis; Image: Sinclair Lewis, via.) For

My wick hath a thief in it

In January of 1824, after weeks of intense suffering at the hands of what he later admitted was simply “a severe cold,” renowned essayist and poet Charles Lamb sent the following letter to his good friend and fellow poet, Bernard Barton — a hugely entertaining letter that contains what is surely one of the greatest, most over-dramatic descriptions of

This, sir, is my resignation

On December 5th of 1921, future-Nobel laureate and Pulitzer Prize-winning author William Faulkner landed a job as a University of Mississippi postmaster. Despite numerous reports of his writing novels on the job, losing and occasionally throwing away mail, ignoring colleagues and customers, playing bridge during opening hours, and regularly turning up late only to leave early, Faulkner somehow

What do I want in a doctor?

In 1964, following the retirement of his regular physician, 62-year-old novelist John Steinbeck was asked by his new doctor to complete a routine medical questionnaire for his records. Steinbeck did exactly that, and on reaching the last of its many pages, the Grapes of Wrath author discovered, and left blank, a small space reserved for

Please send in your letters

When, in September of 1965, it was suggested to Charles Bukowski that a collection of his letters would be an attractive proposition for publishers and the reading public, the legendary poet quickly set about recovering as much material as he could by way of the following form letter — written in his own inimitable style

Sympathy begins at home

In February of 1905, the following letter was sent to an aspiring writer by Jack London — the renowned author responsible for, most notably, White Fang and The Call of the Wild. In actual fact, it was a form letter used many times by London until, a couple of years later, he vowed to read and

The morning mail is my enemy

In March of 1961, nine years after the publication of Charlotte’s Web, author E. B. White received a letter from a young fan named Cathy Durham who wanted to know when, if ever, his next children’s book would see the light of day. He replied, in part: “I would like to write another book for children but

The Battle of the Bitches

Early-1993, Matt Ffytche — an editor at now-defunct London-based magazine, Modern Review — contacted U.S. author and critic Camille Paglia by fax and asked her to write for the publication. In addition to her fee, Ffytche also offered a complimentary copy of “No Exit,” the new book by Modern Review co-founder Julie Burchill — someone already known to Paglia due to a negative review Burchill

The Great Sex Letter

On March 7th of 1947, a drunken Neal Cassady — the man on whom Dean Moriarty in On the Road would later be based — wrote the following letter to his friend, Jack Kerouac, and described two recent sexual encounters. Cassady’s uninhibited, free-flowing prose was a huge influence on Kerouac’s writing and this letter in

This is my last visit

In 1966, a few months after first being serialised in The New Yorker, Truman Capote‘s genre-defining non-fiction novel, In Cold Blood, the true story of a quadruple murder in 1959 that Capote investigated and the subsequent trial he attended, was published to huge acclaim. Capote’s book was a sensation and is still one of the

You are truly wonderful

Since she passed away last month, I’ve heard numerous stories of letters written by Nora Ephron — generous letters which were, more often than not, heartwarming, positive, and laced with humour. Below is just one example, written in 1994 to Elizabeth Wurtzel in response to a request to supply a blurb for Prozac Nation, the

The proverbial “really good” sci-fi movie

On March 31st of 1964, Stanley Kubrick initiated contact with author Arthur C. Clarke by way of the following letter, in which the filmmaker declared an interest in the two collaborating to produce, in his words, “the proverbial ‘really good’ science-fiction movie.” Clarke was immediately keen — so much so that just three weeks later, on April 22nd,

Sure, go ahead

In February of 1945, James Thurber — much-loved New Yorker cartoonist and author of, most notably, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty — delivered, quite brilliantly, a playful jab to his attorney and friend, Morris Ernst, by way of the following letter — written in response to a request from the lawyer to reprint some of Thurber’s drawings in a forthcoming book. (Source:

You’ve got to sell your heart

Late-1938, eager to gain some feedback on her work, aspiring young author and Radcliffe sophomore Frances Turnbull sent a copy of her latest story to celebrated novelist and friend of the family, F. Scott Fitzgerald. Before long the feedback arrived, in the form of the somewhat harsh but admirably honest reply seen below. (Source: F.

The novel is a wonder

On October 27th of 1924, 28-year-old F. Scott Fitzgerald sent a letter to his editor, Maxwell Perkins, along with an early draft of his new novel, tentatively titled The Great Gatsby. That missive, and Perkins’s delighted but constructively critical response, can be enjoyed below. Fitzgerald took his editor’s suggestions on board, immediately made some major revisions to

Oh Christ, the cook is dead

In February of 1977, a well-meaning teacher named Stephen Gard wrote to Spike Milligan after reading Monty, the third installment of Spike’s memoirs which focused on his life as a soldier in World War II, and asked some questions about the book. Says Stephen: “My letter was written as a fan, but it did ask

They pay brisk money for this crap?

Writing to his agent, H. N. Swanson, in 1953, detective novelist Raymond Chandler takes a break from penning what would be his final novel, Playback, and parodies science fiction writing — a genre which, judging by the letter’s final sentence in particular, he had little time for. Also amusing is the appearance of something, or

Airman Thompson

In 1956, not long after enlisting with the United States Air Force, 19-year-old Hunter S. Thompson landed a job as Sports Editor for The Command Courier, Eglin Air Force Base‘s newspaper, and immediately began to ruffle feathers. The memo below was sent the next year, at which point his exaggerated reporting and rebellious attitude were causing

I am greatly troubled by what you say

In 1905, the “superintendent of the children’s department” at Brooklyn Public Library ordered that all copies of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn be removed from the room, due to their characters’ “coarseness, deceitfulness and mischievous practices.” Soon after, unhappy with the development, the librarian in charge of the “Department for the Blind,” Asa Don Dickinson, wrote

It has never got easier

In March of 1962, acclaimed author John Steinbeck wrote the following letter to Edith Mirrielees — a lady who, as his professor of creative writing at Stanford 40 years previous, had been an enormous influence on his development as a writer and, he later claimed, one of the few things he respected about the university. His fantastic, insightful letter

The real heroes are the parents

In July of 1918, whilst serving as an ambulance driver in Italy during World War I, Ernest Hemingway was seriously wounded in a mortar attack that resulted in both legs being “riddled” with shrapnel and a six month stay in a Milan hospital. Three months after the incident, as he recuperated, 19-year-old Hemingway wrote the following letter

A pantomime Aslan would be blasphemy

December, 1959: C. S. Lewis writes the following letter to BBC producer Lance Sieveking and praises the recent radio adaptation of his Narnia story, The Magician’s Nephew. He then clearly states that he is “absolutely opposed” to the idea of a TV adaptation of the novels and that, to him, a pantomime Aslan would be “blasphemy.”

I refuse to be cheated out of my deathbed scene

In 1912, after she called him “the Old Maid of novelists” in a scathing review of his new book, Marriage, journalist and author Rebecca West met and fell in love with H. G. Wells. The often-explosive affair that resulted lasted for some months, until, in March of 1913, Wells — 26 years her senior and already a

The problem is one of illiteracy, not Marxism

Early-1966, believing its contents to be “immoral,” the Hanover County School Board in Virginia decided to remove all copies of Harper Lee‘s classic novel, To Kill a Mockingbird, from the county’s school libraries. As soon as she was alerted, Lee responded perfectly by way of the following letter, written to, and later published in, The Richmond News Leader. Also

Forget your personal tragedy

In 1925, following publication of his magnum opus, The Great Gatsby, author F. Scott Fitzgerald began work on his fourth novel, Tender Is the Night—a tale about the troubled lives of Dick and Nicole Diver, a couple based largely on Gerald and Sara Murphy, a wealthy, popular couple who moved in the same social circles

American democracy will have disappeared

On May 2nd of 1940, a Reverend Leon M. Birkhead — National Director of “Friends of Democracy,” an organisation committed to combatting “anti-Semitic propaganda” — wrote to the author John Steinbeck with the following enquiry: I hope that you will not think I am impertinent, but our organization has had put up to it the problem of your nationality. You

God damn it, I split it so it will stay split

In January of 1947, renowned novelist Raymond Chandler wrote a letter to the editor of The Atlantic Monthly, Edward Weeks, primarily with regard to the title of a piece he had written for the magazine which was ultimately published the next year, titled, “Oscar Night in Hollywood.” It is the latter half of this letter,

It is only adults who ever feel threatened

When released in the early-1970s, Maurice Sendak‘s children’s book, In the Night Kitchen, caused quite a stir for one particular reason: its protagonist — a young boy named Mickey — was drawn nude in some illustrations. Fearful of their children seeing an innocent picture of a fictional boy’s genitals, some parents and librarians took the

Illiterately yours

The following intro and genuine exchange of letters forms the dedication to Will Rogers‘ 1924 book, The Illiterate Digest. Image of Will Rogers via iCollector. “Most Books have to have an Excuse by some one for the Author, but this is the only Book ever written that has to have an Alibi for the Title,

The end of the world of books

In 1975, Norman Maclean‘s book, A River Runs Through It and Other Stories, was rejected by publishers Alfred A. Knopf after initially being green-lit — thankfully it was eventually released by University of Chicago Press, to much acclaim. Six years after the rejection, in 1981, an editor at Knopf named Charles Elliott wrote to Maclean and expressed

You must deliver marketable goods

Late-1914, an aspiring young writer named Max Fedder sent a copy of his manuscript, “A Journal of One Who Is to Die,” to Jack London, the author responsible for such works as The Call of the Wild, White Fang, and, most relevantly, Martin Eden — the bleak story of a young man battling to become a writer. The

Be Prepared

In March of 1861, renowned novelist Anthony Trollope sent the following letter to a Miss Dorothea Sankey. To this day, it’s unknown whether he was joking. It’s worth noting that Trollope remained married to the wife in question, Rose Heseltine. In fact, she also outlived him. (Source: The Letters of Anthony Trollope; Image: Anthony Trollope, via

The Tale of Peter Rabbit

In September of 1893, at 26 years of age, Beatrix Potter sent the following illustrated letter to Noel, the five-year-old son of her friend and former governess, Annie Moore. The letter contained a tale of four rabbits, and in fact featured the first ever appearance of Peter Rabbit; however it wasn’t until 1901, eight years later, that

C. S. Lewis on Writing

Considering he wrote The Chronicles of Narnia, one of the most popular collections of children’s literature of all time, it’s no real surprise that C. S. Lewis received thousands of letters from youngsters during his career. What’s admirable is that he attempted to reply to each and every one of those pieces of fan mail,

I am very real

In October of 1973, Bruce Severy — a 26-year-old English teacher at Drake High School, North Dakota — decided to use Kurt Vonnegut‘s novel, Slaughterhouse-Five, as a teaching aid in his classroom. The next month, on November 7th, the head of the school board, Charles McCarthy, demanded that all 32 copies be burned in the school’s furnace

You are mistaken in calling it a novel

In September of 1961, a young publicist at Simon & Schuster named Nina Bourne began sending out copies of a forthcoming book to a whole host of notable readers, in an attempt to solicit a blurb or two for its release. They were accompanied with an enthusiastic note from Bourne that read, “This is a

His heart is not in his work

Before becoming a full-time author, Sherwood Anderson worked as a copy-writer for a Chicago-based advertising agency named Taylor Critchfield Co, and it wasn’t until 1918, by which time he was 41 years of age, that he was able to take the leap and devote himself to his craft. When it came to resigning from the

Things to worry about

When he wasn’t busy writing some of the most critically lauded and enduring novels of the 20th Century, The Great Gatsby author F. Scott Fitzgerald could often be found penning the most fascinating of letters to such famous characters as his good friend, Ernest Hemingway; editor extraordinaire, Maxwell Perkins; and his wife and fellow author,

Respected Paternal Relative

In April of 1866, the future author of Treasure Island, Robert Louis Stevenson, wrote the following letter to his father and expertly asked for some money. He was just 15 years of age at the time. (Source: The Letters of Robert Louis Stevenson, Vol. I (1868-1880); Image: Robert Louis Stevenson, aged 15, via EdinPhoto.) 2 SULYARDE

E. B. White on the Free Press

Late-1975, Esquire magazine announced that a forthcoming 23-page article by Pulitzer-Prize-winning journalist Harrison Salisbury, to be published in their February 1976 issue, had been sponsored by Xerox. After hearing of the arrangement, E. B. White — author of Charlotte’s Web and long-serving contributor to The New Yorker — wrote a letter to his local newspaper and voiced his disapproval. In the coming

I have no ancestors of that gifted people

In 1938, some months after the initial publication of The Hobbit, J. R. R. Tolkien and his British publisher, Stanley Unwin, opened talks with Rütten & Loening, a Berlin-based publishing house who were keen to translate the novel for the German market. All was going well until, in July, they wrote to Tolkien and asked for proof of

1984 v. Brave New World

In October of 1949, a few months after publication of George Orwell‘s dystopian masterpiece, Nineteen Eighty-Four, he received a letter from fellow author Aldous Huxley, a man who, 17 years previous, had seen his own nightmarish vision of society published in the form of Brave New World, a book also now considered a classic. Having recently finished reading

A book is like a man

During the nine months of 1951 that saw him working on his novel, East of Eden, author John Steinbeck began each day of writing by penning, in his notebook, a brief letter to his editor and good friend, Pascal “Pat” Covici. Early-1952, with the book finished, Steinbeck wrote him a final letter — a dedication to Covici in

Jelly-boned swines

June of 1912 was a bad month for D. H. Lawrence. His lover, Frieda — a married woman with whom he had recently fled to Germany — was being begged to return to the family home in England by her husband (and Lawrence’s former professor), Ernest Weekley. In addition, publisher William Heinemann had just decided to

Interviews are pure twaddle

In December of 1888, shortly before becoming editor of the Ladies’ Home Journal, Pulitzer Prize-winning author Edward Bok visited Mark Twain at his home to conduct an interview, the intention being to publish the resulting write-up in Bok’s weekly syndicated column. The chat went well; the next day he wrote the piece, and sent a copy to

The love of a parasite is worth nothing

In May of 1948, author Ayn Rand received a letter from a fan named Joanne Rondeau. In it, she asked Rand to explain a sentence in her bestselling 1943 novel, The Fountainhead, which reads: To say ‘I love you’ one must first know how to say the ‘I’. Rand responded with the following letter. (Source:

The suspense was unbearable

In 1965, a popular British comic by the name of “Eagle” published the following dramatic letter from an an avid young reader. In fact, that 12-year-old boy was Douglas Adams, future author of, most notably, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, and this very short story was his first published work. (Source: The Salmon of Doubt; Image:

Nor was there a stock comedy Negro

In 1943, Alfred Hitchcock approached author John Steinbeck and asked him to write the script for his next movie, Lifeboat. Steinbeck agreed, and quickly supplied the director with a novella. Over the coming months, Hitchcock gradually modified the story with the assistance of other writers, and in January of 1944, just before it premiered, Steinbeck

She doesn’t answer the phone

In 1951, E. B. White — the novelist responsible for, most notably, Charlotte’s Web and Stuart Little — was accused by the ASPCA of not paying his dog tax and, as a result, “harboring” an unlicensed dog. He responded by way of the following delightful letter. (Source: Letters of a Nation; Image: E. B. White with

On the Meaning of Life

In July of 1931, author and philosopher Will Durant wrote to a number of notable figures and asked, essentially, “What is the meaning of life?” His letter concluded: Spare me a moment to tell me what meaning life has for you, what keeps you going, what help—if any—religion gives you, what are the sources of

May the muses embrace you

In September of 1988, Salman Rushdie‘s fourth novel, The Satanic Verses, was published in the UK to both critical acclaim and immediate controversy. By February of 1989, following months of protests and death threats, his execution was ordered by way of a fatwā issued by the Supreme Leader of Iran, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. Rushdie was

Something extraordinary

July, 1922. In the final paragraph of an otherwise unremarkable letter to his editor, Maxwell Perkins, author F. Scott Fitzgerald passionately announces his desire to begin writing “something extraordinary and beautiful and simple and intricately patterned.” The novel he had mentioned for the first time was The Great Gatsby. Transcript follows. Image kindly supplied by

We both share the same goal

Author Douglas Adams had been trying for many years to bring The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy to the big screen when, in December of 1997, a deal was made with Disney to do exactly that. Initially Adams was understandably delighted, but by April of 1999 — after multiple rewrites of his screenplay in response to

Nothing good gets away

John Steinbeck, born in 1902, was one of the most acclaimed authors of his generation, responsible for a body of work that boasts, most notably, The Grapes of Wrath, East of Eden, and Of Mice and Men—all classics which have been read and adored by many millions in all corners of the globe, and which

Wind the clock, for tomorrow is another day

Author E. B. White won numerous awards in his lifetime, and with good reason. Born in 1899, he was one of the greatest essayists of his time, writing countless influential pieces for both The New Yorker and Harper’s; in 1959, he co-authored the multi-million selling, expanded edition of The Elements of Style; he wrote children’s books which have

A bag of wind

George Orwell wrote the following letter to his publisher, Frederic Warburg, in 1948. At the time, he was valiantly attempting to finish the first draft of his latest novel whilst “under the influence of” tuberculosis, and was still undecided as to the book’s title. Sadly, that book — the incredible Nineteen Eighty-Four, published in June the next year — would

Advice from Harper Lee

A young fan of ‘To Kill a Mockingbird‘ named Jeremy wrote to Harper Lee in 2006, and asked for a signed photo. He didn’t get one, but instead received this lovely piece of advice from the author that is far more precious. Transcript follows. Image courtesy of Nate D. Sanders. Image: Nate D. Sanders Transcript

Pornography is an attitude and an intention

Ever since it was first published in France in 1955, Lolita — Vladimir Nabokov‘s novel about a middle-aged man’s obsession with, and seduction of, a young teenage girl — has, unsurprisingly, courted controversy. The following letter was written by the author in 1956 to a friend named Morris Bishop, and offers in its third paragraph

It is the woman who pays

Says Marianne: “In 1990 my husband passed on; I was 36-years-old and left with 3 small children. For some reason I wrote to Kurt Vonnegut and thanked him for his books and his compassion. I did not expect a reply. He must have been a kind man, as he sent this to me within a

THE INFERNAL MACHINE

In July of 1954, just a few months after the release of Live and Let Die, Ian Fleming wrote the following letter to his publishers, Jonathan Cape, and suggested some names for the next installment in the James Bond series. “The Infernal Machine” was named as his favourite, but clearly not for long. At the foot

Reviews were angry and childish

Writing in September of 1925, F. Scott Fitzgerald responds to a fan of his latest book, The Great Gatsby, and notes that until H. L. Mencken reviewed it (here) critics were largely unimpressed — as a result it barely sold. Since then it has sold millions of copies, regularly features in ‘best of’ lists, and is

That man basked in your light

It’s not often you see a letter of thanks from one legendary figure to another, and certainly not as heartfelt as this example. It was written in 1976 by Ray Bradbury and sent to fellow author Robert Heinlein; a man who clearly influenced and guided Bradbury during his early years. His gratitude was plain to see, almost 40

Thank you for the dream

One rainy Sunday afternoon in 1989, with encouragement and much-needed help from her father, a 7-year-old girl named Amy decided to send something to Roald Dahl. Taking inspiration from her favourite book, The BFG, and using a combination of oil, coloured water and glitter, Amy sent the author a very fitting and undeniably adorable gift: one of her

For your confidential information

Ian Fleming caused quite a stir in 1957 with the release of From Russia with Love, due in no small part to what seemed to be the death of James Bond at the novel’s close. In fact, so concerned were 007 fans that the author quickly amassed thousands of worried letters. Ever the storyteller, Fleming

Long may the Grand Master live

The following birthday message was sent by telegram in 1885 to Victor Hugo, the French writer responsible for, most notably, Les Misérables and The Hunchback of Notre-Dame. It was penned on the day of Hugo’s 83rd birthday by the father of both dynamite and the Nobel Prizes, Alfred Nobel. Short, but sweet. Transcript and translation follow.

You are scum

Letter removed at the request of Hunter S. Thompson’s Estate.

Try again, won’t you?

In the mid-1940s, before breaking through to become the successful novelist and prolific short-story writer many now remember, the late-John D. MacDonald was the recipient of countless dreaded rejection letters. Undeterred, he ploughed on. Some years later — at which point his services were very much in demand and he was selling his short stories

North Polar Bear’s leg got broken

In December of 1920, J. R. R. Tolkien secretly began what would become an annual event in his household for the next 20 years: in the guise of a shaky-handed Father Christmas, he lovingly handwrote a letter to his 3-year-old son, John, placed it in an envelope along with an illustration of his home near

I can’t look you in the voice

The late, great Dorothy Parker had many strings to her bow. She wrote hundreds of poems and short stories, many of which were published in magazines and books; she was a biting and much-loved book critic for The New Yorker in the late 1920s; in the 1930s, she moved to Hollywood to try her hand

The human race is incurably idiotic

Few letters have entertained me more than this one, sent by noted writer H. L. Mencken to artist Charles Green Shaw in 1927. Written in list-form, the letter acts as a Mencken biography of sorts as he briefly — and more often than not, humorously — offers his views on a whole host of subjects, topics

May I suggest that Mr. Bond be armed with a revolver?

Late-May of 1956, James Bond author Ian Fleming received a politely critical letter from a firearms expert named Geoffrey Boothroyd. It began: I have, by now, got rather fond of Mr. James Bond. I like most of the things about him, with the exception of his rather deplorable taste in firearms. In particular, I dislike

It can never be as bad in fiction as it is in real life

On January 7th of 1964, having held his tongue for two months despite a steady stream of criticism, author Ken Kesey wrote the following letter to The New York Times in defence of the Broadway adaptation of his novel, One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest; a stage show which had attracted a fair amount of

This is Kurt Vonnegut, reporting from the afterlife

In a 1997 letter to Manhattan-based radio station WNYC, author Kurt Vonnegut pitches his idea for a series of fictional interviews with the deceased. In fact the idea came to fruition and numerous 90-second segments — one of which can be heard here — were subsequently broadcast, with interviewees ranging from the non-famous through to

My favorite feature is the Obituary department

In 1961, the following submission letter — written by an aspiring author aged just 14 — arrived at the offices of Spacemen Magazine accompanied by a copy of “The Killer,” the polite youngster’s latest short story. Unfortunately for him the magazine’s editor, Forrest Ackerman, didn’t deem the tale worthy of inclusion at that point, and it would be another 33

What great births you have witnessed!

In May of 1889, author Mark Twain wrote the following beautiful letter of congratulations to Walt Whitman, the indisputably influential poet behind, most notably, Leaves of Grass. The cause for celebration was Whitman’s upcoming 70th birthday, the imminence of which saw Twain pen not just a birthday wish, but a stunning 4-page love letter to human endeavour, as seen

This “evil” was the greatest which can befall a man

When he wrote the following letter to George Eveleth in 1848, Edgar Allan Poe‘s wife, Virginia, had been dead for almost a year, having finally succumbed to tuberculosis after first contracting the disease in 1842. The latter part of this letter — the rest of which mainly concerns his ultimately unpublished journal, The Stylus —

The vilest book that exists in print

In 1874, publishers Chatto & Windus asked their most renowned author, the inimitable Samuel Clemens, for a brief but quotable review of ‘Nuggets and Dust Panned Out in California by Dod Grille,’ the most recent book by another of their authors, Ambrose Bierce. Given that Clemens and Bierce had known each other since the 1860s and remained good