Torturing the Saxophone

In 2014, celebrated Swedish free jazz saxophonist Mats Gustafsson sent a copy of his forthcoming album to one of his idols, the legendary comic book artist, record collector and musician Robert Crumb. Gustafsson’s upcoming record was a compilation of his experimental interpretations of some jazz classics by people such as Duke Ellington, Lars Gullin, and

Don’t let anybody raise you. You’ve been raised.

In 1945, weeks after graduating from high school and with no support from the child’s father, 17-year-old Maya Angelou gave birth to her only son. Two months later, desperate for independence, she moved out of her mother’s home, found accommodation of her own, and began to raise her son. Over the next 70 years, Maya

Make your soul grow

In 2006, a group of students at Xavier High School in New York City were given an assignment by their English teacher, Ms. Lockwood, that was to test their persuasive writing skills: they were asked to write to their favourite author and ask him or her to visit the school. It’s a measure of his

You were my angel

Oprah Winfrey is one of the most successful and influential people in the world, having hosted and produced, for 25 years until 2011, the longest-running and most-watched talk show in the history of television, The Oprah Winfrey Show—a programme which was watched, at its peak, by upwards of 40 million people each week, was broadcast

Hot, Hot, Hot

In May of 2000, an episode of Will & Grace aired in which one of its gay characters, Jack, joins an ex-gay ministry in an effort to get close to, and seduce, its formerly gay leader, Bill (played by Neil Patrick Harris). Unsurprisingly, the ex-gay community — people who claim to have suppressed or sometimes even “cured”

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

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

You crack dealing piece of trash

When, in 2007, Cleveland councillor Michael Polensek heard that local 18-year-old constituent Arsenio Winston had been arrested for selling crack cocaine to an undercover officer, he went straight for the jugular and wrote him the following furious letter — a letter which soon made far more headlines than the crime itself due to Polensek’s complete lack of

Whatever you like doing, do it!

Since joining Pixar 22 years ago, award-winning animator Pete Docter has been influential in bringing some of the studio’s most successful movies to the big screen, including Toy Story, Toy Story 2, Monsters, Inc., and Up — the last two of which he also directed. In 2009, Martin Kelsey — a teacher at South Valley Middle School in Liberty

All of my friends were on the shelves above

Ray Bradbury was an outspoken supporter of libraries throughout his career, and the following letter to the assistant director of Fayetteville Public Library — in which he explains the race to write the novella upon which Fahrenheit 451 was eventually based — perfectly illustrates why. The letter was written in 2006 in response to a city-wide “Big Read,” in which Bradbury’s classic novel was

Things will just get better and better

In June of 2010, the lead singer of Eels, Mark ‘E’ Everett, wrote a lovely letter of advice to his 16-year-old self. The missive features in the wonderful book, Dear Me, and can be read below. Transcript follows. (Source: Dear Me: More Letters to My 16-Year-Old Self; Image of “E” via Gonzai.) Transcript Chateau E

Love is love, and there will never be too much

Back in 2000, a teenage Fiona Apple fan named Bill Magee decided to approach the singer after a gig and hand her a letter. In it, the 16-year-old spoke of his school’s gay-straight alliance — of which he was a member — and asked if she could possibly reply with a sentence or two in its support. The next week,

Scientifically yours

I think it’s safe to assume that after NASA successfully landed two rovers on Mars in January of 2004, the momentous event was quickly eclipsed by the following letter of congratulations, sent to the JPL days later by a certain Dr. Bunsen Honeydew and his accident-prone assistant, Beaker. Note: Although the Spirit rover’s initial problems were overcome, it’s unknown

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

Sadness is a strange companion

Full marks go to Paul Banks, lead singer of Interpol, for the lovely, compassionate note seen below; written last year after a gig in Boston to a downbeat young lady. Letters of advice like this — particularly when written by ‘celebrities’ to their fans — can actually be life-changing for the recipient, and should be commended. Another

Please don’t give in

On August 11th of 2007, a 12-year-old girl named Amy wrote the following heartbreaking letter to her father, 47-year-old Garry Newlove, as he lay comatose in hospital. The day before, she, her two sisters and her mother had looked on in horror as he was savagely beaten by a gang of youths outside their home. Sadly,

It’s more likely that I was doing 911km/h

When Auckland resident Justin Lee received the above speeding ticket back in 2004, he noticed a typo: according to said notice, the infringement in question had taken place 30 years beforehand, in 1974, on the day he was born. His entertaining response can be read below, followed by the subsequent reply from the New Zealand Police. Transcript

My Pilot days are closing in

Late-2000, in an effort to find a sponsor for his act, stand-up comedian Mitch Hedberg wrote to the makers of his new favourite pen, The Uni-Ball Gel Impact, and suggested such a partnership. His amusing letter — or, more specifically, a draft of it as written on tour with his wife, Lynn — can be seen below.

I will treasure your letter

In September of 2006, following a desperately sad childhood that saw both drug-addicted parents murdered and the care of her younger siblings left in her hands, 16-year-old Sacia Flowers decided to write to J. K. Rowling and thank her for creating Harry Potter, her “best friend” during the most difficult of times. Her letter can be

I am ashamed to share membership of the same party with you

Rather than congratulate Labor MP John Robertson following his being sworn in as a member of the New South Wales Legislative Council in 2008, famously outspoken former Australian Prime Minister Paul Keating, incredibly unhappy with Robertson’s conduct, chose instead to send him this wonderfully scathing letter. Indeed, Keating’s worst fears were realised in March of this year

PERSIST

In May of this year, Pixar animator Austin Madison kindly hand-wrote the following open letter to aspiring artists, in a bid to inspire them through times of creative drought. It’s a lovely, eloquent letter, and in fact contains advice valuable to people in many a creative field. It was written as a contribution to the Animator

Keep drawing

This charming letter was written in 2009 by long-serving Viz cartoonist Graham Dury to a young man named Charlie, in response to some cartoons he sent to the comic’s offices. For an aspiring artist and fan of the comic to receive such a positive reply — not to mention the nibs and unwanted Roger Mellie doll — must have been quite something. All in

Dear Sixteen-Year-Old Me

If you had the opportunity to write to your 16-year-old self, what would you say? That was the question put to a number of celebrities in 2009 when, in an effort to raise money for the Elton John AIDS Foundation, a book filled with such letters was planned. The end product, Dear Me: A Letter

Take the world by the tail

In June of 2006, the legend that is Tom Waits wrote the following endearing letter to a 15-year-old named Colin, in response to a piece of fan mail written by the teenager a few months previous. It was accompanied by a signed photo, also seen below. The opening joke of Waits’ charming letter can be explained by Colin’s hometown

The romantic Mr Carlin

It was in June of 1998 that legendary comedian George Carlin married Sally Wade. Tragically, just two days before their tenth anniversary, he passed away. Below is just one of countless love letters he wrote to his wife during their time together, many of which feature in her memoir, The George Carlin Letters: The Permanent Courtship

Tchaikovsky was an awesome composer

In January of 2011, chief music critic at the The New York Times, Anthony Tommasini, concluded a two week project in which he discussed the world’s finest composers by unveiling a list he had personally compiled: Top 10 classical music composers in history. (For reference, his top 10 went like this: 1. Bach; 2. Beethoven; 3. Mozart;

My husband John Lennon was a very special man

In October of 2000, 20 years after shooting and killing John Lennon, Mark Chapman became eligible for parole whilst imprisoned at Attica Correctional Facility. Below is the poignant 3-page letter sent to the parole board by Lennon’s widow, Yoko Ono, in which she eloquently opposed his release. Of course, Chapman was denied, and has since been refused

Tell me, what is a “she-male?”

In this amusing note sent to the famous (but since closed) Gotham Book Mart in 2001, author John Updike thanks the manager, Andreas Brown, for his recently received copy of Field and Vision, but more importantly poses a couple of light-hearted questions relating to the packaging in which his order was wrapped. Transcript follows. Image supplied

I am only 6 but I think I can do this job

The Director of Fun’s first day at work In July of 2009, having heard that the director of the National Railway Museum in York, Andrew Scott, was soon to retire after 15 years at the helm, 6-year-old train enthusiast Sam Pointon sent the following letter to the museum in an attempt to fill Scott’s shoes and land his dream job. Luckily

Shame on you Mr. Beck

On September 1st of 2009, in a nod to a joke made by comedian Gilbert Gottfried in which he repeatedly asked the audience not to spread a previously non-existent rumour about Bob Saget, Isaac Eiland-Hall launched the satirical website GlennBeckRapedAndMurderedAYoungGirlIn1990.com; its aim being to parody pundit Glenn Beck‘s often controversial style of political commentary. A subsequent complaint by

Best wishes my dear friend

[Do not read the following if easily offended] In June of 2008, an autograph hunter named Dan emailed a member of Rik Mayall‘s management team in an effort to gain a copy of the Young One‘s signature for his collection. He received the following note, written and signed by Mayall on a printout of his original email,

Seat 29E

Mid-flight on December 21st, 2004, a Continental Airlines passenger — “disgusted” with the location of his seat due to its proximity to the lavatory — humorously wrote the following letter of complaint to the airline’s headquarters. The now-famous letter, complete with illustrations and vivid descriptions of the passenger’s stench-filled discomfort, found its way onto the

The Court would like to balance the scales

In November of 2010, upon realising that the forthcoming birth of his grandchild would probably occur midway through the mortgage-fraud trial on which he was working, Manhattan defence attorney Bennett Epstein wrote the following letter to the judge presiding over the case, Kimba Wood. The reason? To apply for a recess mid-trial so that, should

Is there a Hustler for kids?

Back in 2001, writer and humorist Bill Geerhart posed as a 10-year-old boy and wrote to Larry Flynt, founder of the pornographic magazine Hustler. Below is his letter, and Flynt’s response. Thankfully Flynt wasn’t the only recipient of a letter from little Billy, and in fact Geerhart sent similarly amusing missives to a number of

You were of course the outstanding candidate

In May of 2006, armed only with a glittering virtual career on Football Manager 2005 and limited success in charge of a local under-11s team, then-25-year-old John Boileau made the leap and applied — with tongue firmly in cheek — to become the new manager of Middlesbrough Football Club. Below are his covering letter and

I love my Muppet life

Today, for no particular reason, I bring you a Muppet-themed extravaganza. Keep scrolling after the first letter — there’s more. First, a lovely, very funny internal memo from the late-Jim Henson in 1986 containing three commercial ideas for a Swedish Chef breakfast cereal. In fact what began as a parody eventually became a reality, with

Most sincerely yours

[Do not read if easily offended] In December of 2003, an article written by Richard Dawkins appeared in Free Inquiry magazine. In it, he wrote of a dangerous drug named Gerin Oil and the many millions of deaths around the globe attributed to its existence. Said Dawkins: “The four doomed flights of September 11th 2001

Dear Sixteen-Year-Old Me

In 2009, a gaggle of notable personalities were asked to contribute to a book entitled Dear Me: A Letter to My Sixteen-Year-Old Self in order to raise money for the Elton John AIDS Foundation; the idea being for each celebrity to write a letter to themselves, aged sixteen. Below is a charming example of such a missive,

I’ll be waiting to see your names someday on the big screen

Over the course of seven years in the 1980s, three young friends — Jayson Lamb, Eric Zala and Chris Strompolos — undertook the mammoth task of remaking their favourite movie, Raiders of the Lost Ark, shot-for-shot; a premiere for the finished piece even took place in 1989, in a local auditorium. However, it was a hugely

Fake!

In 1986, having just completed some layouts for a Jonny Quest strip, professional comic book artist Steve Rude decided to fax his work to a personal hero – celebrated cartoonist Alex Toth – in the hope of garnering some productive feedback. Toth’s brutal handwritten response, the reading of which must have been more than a little

Love that color on you, by the way

Courtesy of a reader named Farrah, today we have a letter – purportedly written by Hugh Laurie – that was sent to a number of critics earlier this year along with advance copies of the first two episodes of House, season 7. In it, ‘Laurie’ attempts to sell the show by way of amusingly explaining the benefits

Best Wishes, Brad Bird

Yet again (see also here, here, and here) we have a letter from the offices of Pixar that further cements their reputation as being incredibly generous to fans, the gracious respondent this time being the great Brad Bird, director of The Incredibles, Ratatouille, The Iron Giant, and, most importantly, the music video for Do the Bartman in 1990. Further

It was a busy year and then it wasn’t

Here we have a pleasant, charming letter from the living legend that is Christopher Walken, a man with one of the most distinctive voices in Hollywood, typewritten to members of the Online Christopher Walken Fan Club in 2004 via its co-ordinator, Candy Rosenbaum. According to Ms Rosenbaum, the actor, apparently a technophobe, makes a concerted effort each

I write for young readers, not uptight adults

In September of 2008, believing it to be “inappropriate” reading material for students, a staff member at New Hampshire’s Plymouth High School lodged a complaint with the school’s library in an effort to have John Irving‘s novel, The Hotel New Hampshire, removed from their shelves. Thankfully an internal investigation quickly followed, and an overwhelming vote

DON’T GIVE UP!

From the pen of Pixar animator Aaron Hartline, here’s a highly endearing letter of encouragement to an aspiring animator named Willie Downs that only serves to confirm my suspicion that employees of Pixar can actually do no wrong. Downs – a huge fan of Pixar from the beginning who, it seems, was simply in need

Looks like books are coming to an end

From the pen of To Kill a Mockingbird author Harper Lee comes a downbeat letter written in September of 2008, at a time when a flurry of worrying developments in the world of traditional book publishing had seemingly brought about – in Lee’s words – “the last of the wine”. Just months earlier the CEO

I will never be the next Rene Zellwegger

Today, a short but humorous letter of thanks – and briefly annotated envelope – from 2003; sent by Zach Galifianakis to Ryan McKee and Ron Babcock, founders of a fledgling comedy magazine named Modest Proposal that ran for just six issues until its demise in 2006. Galifianakis had recently been interviewed for the publication and

Thomas Pynchon on plagiarism

1977: Romance novelist Lucilla Andrews‘ autobiography, No Time for Romance, is published. In it, she describes, in detail, her experiences as a nurse during World War II. 2001: Atonement – an Ian McEwan novel in which the heroine at one point works as a wartime nurse – is released to much critical acclaim. In the

Dear 8 year-old Teresa

In 1988, aged just 8 but already a fan of the teen actor due to Stand By Me, Star Trek: The Next Generation and his “awesome smile,” an excited Teresa Jusino saved up the $12.00 membership fee and applied to join “WilPower,” then-15-year-old Wil Wheaton‘s official fan club. She then waited. And waited some more. And then gave up

It is a lovely book

In 2012, Canadian author Yann Martel received a thoughtful thank you letter in the mail in response to his award-winning novel, Life of Pi. Such appreciative letters are understandably not a rarity for Martel, however the writer of this particular handwritten note, a fan who had recently read the book with his daughter, happened to

The quilt is beyond beautiful… Beyond!!!

In April of 2008, members of various online communities came together in an effort to send their idol, Johnny Depp, a unique quilt for his birthday the next year, and by February of 2009 it had been crafted. The quilt, comprising of over a hundred small squares of material – all signed by various fans around

Pixar films don’t get finished, they just get released

Mid-2008, hoping at best to receive a signed photo from his idol in return, a young man named Adam wrote to Pete Docter, the award-winning director of Monsters, Inc. and, more recently, Up. In the letter he spoke of his admiration for Docter and, as an amateur filmmaker and huge Pixar fan, mentioned his desire to

Like most junk science that just won’t die, the polygraph stays with us

Without proper context, this letter – a highly critical analysis of polygraph testing written by an ex-CIA employee – would still be a captivating read; however it just so happens that the note was penned from prison by Aldrich Ames, a former counter-intelligence officer-turned-spy who in 1985 chose to sell information to the KGB that,

Your Friend, Conan

In 2003, with her prom fast approaching and a date as yet undecided, Ohio-based Nikki Simmons took a chance and sent an invite to her idol: a certain flame-haired talk show host. She says, “I asked Conan O’Brien to prom when I was in eleventh grade… so many many years ago… Although he turned me

You, Me and Cousin Dupree

On July 17th of 2006, three days after You, Me and Dupree — a film both produced by, and starring, Owen Wilson — was released in cinemas, the following open letter, addressed to Owen Wilson’s brother, Luke, was posted on Steely Dan‘s official website. In it, the band humorously take a pop at Owen’s post-Bottle Rocket output and claim their

John McCain’s favourite joke

Back in 2003, John Hargrave of Zug.com posed as a 10-year-old schoolboy and sent a written request to 100 U.S. Senators. Armed with a mythical ‘government project’ set by his Social Studies teacher, Hargrave’s temporary alter-ego politely asked each Senator to reply to him with his or her favourite joke. Thankfully, some responded. Below is

Your own private book event

The letter below, written by Chuck Palahniuk in response to a piece of mail from fan Mike Kitchen, is just one of thousands the Fight Club scribe sent at the end of 2006 after opening the floodgates via his official website. Palahniuk has long been known to reply to as much mail as possible, but

Prom is right around the corner

In April of 2008, hundreds of Oregon families – the children of which all attended Lincoln High School in Portland – began to receive the following letter in the post prior to an upcoming school prom. The letter, written on the school’s official letterhead, recommended that parents prepare for the event by supplying their kids

You will not stop me, Reverend

Not only is 77 year old Joe Arpaio the sheriff of Maricopa County, Arizona, but he’s also known as – and happily promotes usage of the title – ‘America’s Toughest Sheriff’; a moniker which also happens to feature in the titles of his two published books. In April of this year, Al Sharpton decided to

Onward!

Howard Junker is the editor of ZYZZYVA, a literary journal based in San Fransisco, and as such receives a steady stream of submissions from writers eager to see their work published in his magazine. Understandably, Junker sends out a standard form letter when rejecting work. An example can be seen below, complete with the handwritten

My husband is planning “an accident”

According to her butler, Paul Burrell, the following four-page letter was given to him by Diana, Princess of Wales in October of 1993, ten months after her separation from Prince Charles was announced. Should it be genuine, it would seem Diana was under the illusion that Charles was planning an accident so as to clear the way

Savin’ It!

June 2003: Al Franken sends the following satirical letter to then Attorney General John Ashcroft and 27 other Republicans. In the letter, written on Harvard University letterhead, Franken requests abstinence-related stories for a (non-existent) book he’s writing entitled ‘Savin’ It!’ and claims to have already received responses from a selection of prominent figures. Just a

It will be sunny one day

Early-2006, during a bout of depression, a young lady by the name of Crystal Nunn wrote a desperate letter to Stephen Fry. Says Crystal: “I had no idea who to turn to. But I really needed someone to turn to and to ease the pain. So I wrote to Stephen Fry because he is my hero, and

WE HAVE THIS ANTHRAX

In the month following the attacks of September 11th, seven letters, all of which contained anthrax spores, were sent to various high profile targets in America. As a result of these letters being sent, five people died and a further 17 subsequently contracted the disease. In July 2008, the FBI informed Dr. Bruce Ivins –

Bravo on your diffcult troubling work

The following note was written by Quentin Tarantino in May of this year whilst at the 62nd Cannes Film Festival. In it, Tarantino congratulates fellow nominee Brilliante Mendoza on his film Kinatay, a movie which triumphed at the festival and beat Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds to win the Prix de la mise en scène (Best Director).

The Wicca Ban

Julie Carpenter is a Wiccan; a Wiccan who at one time had a relationship with Jonathon Sharkey, a self-proclaimed Satanist and Vampire who at one time decided to run for Governor of Minnesota. As a result of the predictable media attention surrounding said campaign and subsequent unveiling of her own beliefs, Julie’s then employer – Peterson

Misbehaver in the caferteria is unexcecpable

Michael Levy, a dean at I.S. 051 Edwin Markham in New York, sent the following letter to pupils’ homes back in 2007 following a food fight in the school cafeteria. Bearing in mind the yellow highlighting in the picture isn’t comprehensive with regards to errors, see how many mistakes you can spot. Although such errors

God is great….God is great

On December 26th of 2003, less than a fortnight after his capture, Saddam Hussein gave the following letter to his jailers. In it, he complained of beatings, sleep deprivation due to the sounds associated with others being tortured, and generally poor conditions.  He was executed 3 years later. Translation follows. (Source: Daily News; Image: Saddam Hussein at trial in