As previously noted, the wonderful blog Letters of Note (mentioned here numerous times!) has spawned a book, called Letters of Note: An Eclectic Collection of Correspondence Deserving of a Wider Audience. The book is in stores today, featuring more than 125 letters, richly illustrated with facsimiles of the letters themselves. The UK edition has been out since last October, and was very warmly received.
Some of my favorite Letters of Note:
* Vonnegut's letter to a book-burner: "If you were to bother to read my books, to behave as educated persons would, you would learn that they are not sexy, and do not argue in favor of wildness of any kind. They beg that people be kinder and more responsible than they often are."
* Huxley's fan-letter to Orwell for Nineteen Eighty-Four: "Within the next generation I believe that the world's rulers will discover that infant conditioning and narco-hypnosis are more efficient, as instruments of government, than clubs and prisons, and that the lust for power can be just as completely satisfied by suggesting people into loving their servitude as by flogging and kicking them into obedience. In other words, I feel that the nightmare of Nineteen Eighty-Four is destined to modulate into the nightmare of a world having more resemblance to that which I imagined in Brave New World."
* Letter from ex-slave to ex-master, on occasion of a request to return to work: "I served you faithfully for thirty-two years, and Mandy twenty years. At twenty-five dollars a month for me, and two dollars a week for Mandy, our earnings would amount to eleven thousand six hundred and eighty dollars. Add to this the interest for the time our wages have been kept back, and deduct what you paid for our clothing, and three doctor's visits to me, and pulling a tooth for Mandy, and the balance will show what we are in justice entitled to."
* Isaac Asimov's letter to the future patrons of a new library: "It is a space ship that will take you to the farthest reaches of the Universe, a time machine that will take you to the far past and the far future, a teacher that knows more than any human being, a friend that will amuse you and console you---and most of all, a gateway, to a better and happier and more useful life."
* Angry letters between Hunter Thompson and Ralph Steadman: "Don't get pompous with me. I am not one of your goddamn sycophants."