Sunday, July 17, 2011

Other People's Love Letters (Edited by Bill Shapiro)

These are 150 letters that you were never meant to see. Thanks to Bill Shapiro, they have now been compiled and printed to share with the rest the world. In his introduction, Mr Shapiro writes, 'So I started collecting other people's love letters. I contacted everyone I knew, and asked if they would send me any they'd been keeping [...] In the end, I had hundreds and hundreds stacked in my living room.' What follows is a generous collection of love, happiness, lust, anger, sorrow, insecurity, disappointment in different shapes, and forms that give readers a voyeuristic peek into other people's relationships.

From hastily-scribbled notes...
In case you can't read it: Stay warm for me and have a nice day. You are my sweetheart even with popsicle feet. Love you.

to creative postcards...

to artwork...


and even a few text messages and emails.

Don't worry, the sweetness isn't too overwhelming. There is a good deal of hurt and bitter sentiment mixed in with hopeful ones so perusing these pages doesn't turn into a heavy saccharine experience.
Of course, there are the more traditional letters, sent through post or left on bedside tables. My favorite letters in this collection is an exchange between a Jason and a Chelsea, friends who had met at college. Five years down the road, Jason writes: 'All I want to know is if you remember that moment, if you were there in that place, if you felt the same thing at the same time, if you ever wonder about it, too?' to which Chelsea responds, 'Somewhere amidst all that talk [...] a piece of my heart gave itself to you.' It left me wondering whether these two souls had met once more, opened their hearts to each other again.

I guess that is what this book does. It preserves all these moments of candor and vulnerability. These letters may not have the same effect on me as they do for their intended recipients, but there were really some that made me stop and think on my own life choices. Love and heartbreak are such universal things. There is a little of their stories in mine, as there must be a little of mine in theirs.

While this collection is certainly a visual treat, I wouldn't put it in the must-own category. I was grateful that a friend lent me her copy; at least for a short while I thought of myself as part of these strangers' lives, briefly navigating the sea of their loves and losses like I had some business to be there.

6 comments:

Tin said...

Hi Chris! I wonder if you've heard of Love Letters: An Anthology of Passion by Michelle Lovric. It is also a collection of love letters written by both unknown and known personalities(Robert Browning, Gustave Flaubert etc.)I've been wanting to get hold of this one as well as her other books like Insult and Curse book, Weird Wills and Eccentric Last Wishes, and a whole lot of her other interesting anthologies.

dementedchris said...

Thanks for the recommendations, Tin! The one about the eccentric last wishes looks like it will be VERY interesting!

Michelle said...

There's something about a handwritten love letter. I've received love emails hahaha but I think it would be lovely to get something that has been handled and impressed with someone's presence. I guess that's why people keep it. That's the part that's indelible--more than the sentiments, which may have faded away or altered over the years.

dementedchris said...

Thanks for letting me borrow this, M! I actually have copies of other people's love emails -- especially my best friends'! They often end up in my inbox during moments of post-breakup misery.

blackplume said...

this reminds me of the letters my friends and I used to exchange back during our highschool days. I even got 3 scrapbooks of those letters.

dementedchris said...

@Blackplume
Wow, that's amazing! Somehow, I've misplaced my old grade school and high school letters so I've always envied those who still have theirs. Three scrapbooks full must mean you have fantastic relationships with your friends :)