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 by Simon Garfield X
To the Letter by Simon Garfield

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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 is the author or editor of 17 works of nonfiction, united in content solely by the love of a compelling story. His diverse and unpredictable subject matter ranges from the austere post-war Britain of Our Hidden Lives to the devastating effects of Aids in The End of Innocence, and from the colourful micro-history Mauve to the sad/hilarious annals of the peculiar British entertainment The Wrestling.

His biggest hits include Just My Type, an exploration of the meaning of fonts, On The Map, a meditation on cartography and our place in the world, and The Nation's Favourite, about John Peel's desire to beat up Simon Bates.

Simon was born in London in 1960. At University College School he brutally edited the alternative school magazine Compass, and at the London ...

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