It is a guilty pleasure: I end up buying many scholarly books on classics reviewed in this publication.
Right now I am finishing up Philip Hardie’s The Last Trojan Hero: A Cultural History of Virgil’s Aeneid, an entertaining overview of Virgil’s influence on literary works ranging from Ovid’s Metamorphoses to Michel Butor’s nouveau roman, La Modification (which my husband has promised to translate–we’ll see!).
But even the TLS has its lighter side. I enjoyed Catharine Morris’s recent review of James Ward’s Adventures in Stationery: A Journey through Your Pencil Case. Are you as enchanted by stationery as I am? I have added this book to my TBR list. (By the way, Ward has a blog called I Like Boring Things.)
And I also like this.
The physical means something,” writes Ward. “People like it.” You can’t beat a handwritten letter, it’s true; and, as Ward points out, the materials we use have symbolic power: “Visiting a stationery store, you are surrounded by potential; it’s a way of becoming a new person, a better person.”
Few write letters, but I do correspond with a few old-fashioned friends. Before the stationery store in town closed, I stocked up on stationery, fountain pens, and Apica notebooks. I also adore going to office supply stores on New Year’s Day. My favorite episode of The Gilmore Girls is “Help Wanted,” when Lorelai and her father, Richard, stock up on post-its at an office supply store. And of course The Office is set in a corporate paper supply business.
Did you know there is a blog called Letters of Note?
If you want to read some Roman classics, try Cicero’s Letters, Pliny’s letters, and Seneca’s letters.
I am fond of Fanny Burney’s Evelina, the letters in Ausen’s novels (I especially like Lydia’s in Pride and Prejudice), Helene Hanff’s 84 Charing Cross, Cathleen Schine’s The Love Letter, and there’s a lot of e-mail in Gary Shteyngart’s comic masterpiece, Super Sad True Love Story.
And then there is all that correspondence by favorite authors, Keats, Emily Dickenson, Thomas Hardy, Katherine Mansfield, etc.
What are your favorite books on/with letters?