To the Letter: Book summary and reviews of To the Letter by Simon Garfield

To the Letter

A Celebration of the Lost Art of Letter Writing

By Simon Garfield

To the Letter
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  • Published in USA  Nov 2013,
    464 pages.

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Book Summary

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."

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"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." - Kirkus

"Garfield's book dodges between sociology, political history and literary criticism, and is over-extended by anecdotal detours about the cost of paper, the trade in manuscripts, and his current home in a former post office garage." - The Guardian

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Author Information

Simon Garfield Author Biography

Simon Garfield was born in London in 1960. He won the Guardian/National Union of Students "Student Journalist of the Year" award In 1981, and the same year became a sub-editor at the Radio Times (a UK guide to what's on TV and radio).

He wrote scripts for BBC radio documentaries in the early 1980s, and wrote for Time Out magazine (where he was acting editor from 1988-1989).

He has written for newspapers such as The Independent on Sunday and The Observer. He was named Mind Journalist of the Year in 2005. The award celebrates exceptional writing on mental health issues in the local, national, trade and consumer press.

He is the author of a dozen books of nonfiction including Just My Type, published in 2010 in the UK and 2011 in the USA.

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