To the Letter by Simon Garfield
A Celebration of the Lost Art of Letter Writing

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Garfield’s book is stuffed with marvelous anecdotes, fascinating historical tidbits and excerpts from epistolary masters both ancient (Cicero, Seneca) and modern (Woolf, Hemingway).
-NY Times

Synopsis

The New York Times bestselling author of Just My Type and On the Map offers an ode to letter writing and its possible salvation in the digital age.

Few things are as exciting—and potentially life-changing—as discovering an old letter. And while etiquette books still extol the practice, letter writing seems to be disappearing amid a flurry of e-mails, texting, and tweeting. The recent decline in letter writing marks a cultural shift so vast that in the future historians may divide time not between BC and AD but between the eras when people wrote letters and when they did not. So New York Times bestselling author Simon Garfield asks: Can anything be done to revive a practice that has dictated and tracked the progress of civilization for more than five hundred years?

In To the Letter, Garfield traces the fascinating history of letter writing from the love letter and the business letter to the chain letter and the letter of recommendation. He provides a tender critique of early letter-writing manuals and analyzes celebrated correspondence from Erasmus to Princess Diana. He also considers the role that letters have played as a literary device from Shakespeare to the epistolary novel, all the rage in the eighteenth century and alive and well today with bestsellers like The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. At a time when the decline of letter writing appears to be irreversible, Garfield is the perfect candidate to inspire bibliophiles to put pen to paper and create “a form of expression, emotion, and tactile delight we may clasp to our heart.”
 

About Simon Garfield

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Simon Garfield is the author of fourteen acclaimed books of nonfiction, including Just My Type and On the Map. He lives in London and St. Ives, Cornwall.
 
Published October 3, 2013 by Canongate Books Ltd. 465 pages
Genres: Education & Reference, History, Literature & Fiction, Biographies & Memoirs. Non-fiction
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Critic reviews for To the Letter
All: 4 | Positive: 4 | Negative: 0

Kirkus

Good
on Oct 01 2013

Katherine Mansfield once wrote to a friend, “This is not a letter but my arms around you for a brief moment.” Garfield provides a fond, lovely reflection on the essence of that sentiment.

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NY Times

Good
Reviewed by Carmela Ciuraru on Nov 29 2013

Garfield’s book is stuffed with marvelous anecdotes, fascinating historical tidbits and excerpts from epistolary masters both ancient (Cicero, Seneca) and modern (Woolf, Hemingway).

Read Full Review of To the Letter: A Celebration ... | See more reviews from NY Times

Guardian

Above average
Reviewed by Anita Sethi on Aug 24 2014

Three chapters are entitled "How to Write the Perfect Letter", but there is no perfect letter. There is no perfect book about letter writing, either, yet To the Letter thrills and engages most when it cuts to the core of human relationships, showing personalities pinned to the page in all their painful imperfections.

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National Post arts

Good
Reviewed by Philip Marchand on Nov 29 2013

This is a different kind of voice represented in Garfield’s book — not the voice of literary talent but the voice of decent, intelligent, well educated correspondents, expressing their yearnings in highly stressful circumstances.

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