Sunday, February 17, 2008

Four Letter Word

4letter.jpgThe love letter. The first thing that pops into my mind when I think of the love letter are timeless words of romance, nostalgic thoughts, sonnets, kisses, all that stuff. But Joshua Knelman and Rosalind Porter have treated us to something a little different with Four Letter Word: Invented Correspondence from the Edge of Modern Romance. This is a collection of fictional love letters written by 41 different authors, and what an amazing and diverse set of authors it is! There are a few of those timeless and romantic letters in here, but for the most part the reader plays the part of a voyeur as love is examined in all it's forms. The letters are not always sweet, just as love is not always sweet. Love is sometimes heartbreaking. Sometimes love is not reciprocated. Sometimes one party is not aware that the other party even knows they exist. Sometimes love is a little psychotic. Sometimes love is not between of the stories is a love letter from Bigfoot to Santa Claus where Bigfoot writes "Bigfoot heart sad like kitten who choke to death on pretty ribbon". Now how sad is that? There's something in this book that everyone can relate to. The letters in this book are heavy on memories with a strong feeling of melancholy. There were two stories in particular that struck me right to the core and I had to put the book down for a second after reading them. Both were written about Hurricane Katrina. The first was written by Joseph Boyden who is a professor of writing at the University of New Orleans where I went to get my undergrad degree. His story is written as a series of missing persons ads posted in the classifieds of the Times Picayune (our local newspaper) in the days following Hurricane Katrina as a man searches for his wife who slipped from his hand and fell into the flood waters. As the days pass, his ads get more detailed and he writes messages to her. I did the same thing after Katrina with Megan, though I knew she wasn't in flood waters. She had evacuated to a place where a lot of trees had fallen and cell phones didn't work, so the only way to find anything out was through these online I posted every day on these classifieds looking to hear if she was ok, worrying sick until I finally got a phone call from her a week later once phones worked again. There's another story by Audrey Niffenneger about Hurricane Katrina. A woman's lover was in New Orleans during Katrina and she hasn't been able to get in touch with her, so she writes her a letter knowing that there's nowhere to send it, just to get her feelings out. It's a beautiful story. Megan did this. When we did meet up again after the evacuations she gave me a journal that she wrote in where she just wrote letters to me every day while we couldn't get in touch with each other. So these stories reminded me of the power of love. Not necessarily the happiest moments of our relationship, but how strong love is, and I think that's the point of this book. Love is a really powerful force. It's not always happy. It can be blissful when things are good and it can be devastating when things are down. Love can be between two people be it a couple/student & teacher (this one's popping up in the news a lot, huh?)/parent & child, between a person and a can be unhealthy, it can save a life, it can ruin a life, it can tear down barriers, it can do all of these things. But it's something that unites us all. I can't think of a single person that I would not recommend this book too. It's that good. There's something in it for everyone. There were a couple of stories that weren't for me and with 41 different authors, I doubt that everyone will like everything. But there's sure to be something for everyone. Favorites of mine included an amazing story by Neil Gaiman, Audrey Niffenegger, Joseph Boyden, Tessa Brown (Another incredible story), Chris Bachelder, Gautam Malkani, Hari Kunzru (great story), and Mandy Sayer, who I have to read more of! I got this book from the first book from the library of 2008, and now I'm really wishing I would've bought it as I'm guessing I'll want to go back to it again and again. Hope you enjoy it if you read it!

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