cover of book

Other People's Mail: An Anthology of Letter Stories
edited by Gail Pool
introduction by Gail Pool
University of Missouri Press, 2000
Paper: 978-0-8262-1246-7
Library of Congress Classification PN6071.L48O86 2000
Dewey Decimal Classification 808.831


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.

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