Other People's Love Letters
150 Letters You Were Never Meant to See
By Bill Shapiro
(Potter Style, Hardcover, 9780307382641, 192pp.)
Publication Date: October 30, 2007
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Fevered notes scribbled on napkins after first dates. Titillating text messages. It's-not-you-it's-me relationship-enders. In Other People’s Love Letters, Bill Shapiro has searched America’s attics, closets, and cigar boxes and found actual letters–unflinchingly honest missives full of lust, provocation, guilt, and vulnerability–written only for a lover’s eyes. Modern love, of course, is not all bliss, and in these pages you’ll find the full range of a relationship, with its whispered promises as well as its heartache. But what at first appears to be a deliciously voyeuristic peek into other people’s most passionate moments, will ultimately reawaken your own desires and tenderness…because when you read these letters, you’ll find the heart you’re looking into is actually your own.
• "i think UR great. wanna have wine & Tequila again sometime?"
• "I can't believe you're real, and I think about you constantly in some way or the other all day. I haven't given the finger to anyone driving since I met you."
• "With you I learned how to fight cleaner, how to talk things out better, and how to make a strong loving family out of nothing. These are priceless gifts that I will carry with me the rest of my life. One more thing you did for me: you left, and I had to get through it."
• "P.S. I look forward to your letters too much to call. Also, where do you stand on chains?"
Bill Shapiro is the former editor of LIFE magazine. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.
“If I have learned only one thing from a) personal experience and b) Vivian Cash's fascinating memoir, I Walked the Line, it is this: No human can compose a love letter without seeming slightly insane. Love letters are like suicide notes -- if someone is in the emotional position to consider writing one, they're generally in the worst psychological position to make any cogent sense. That disconnect is what makes Other People's Love Letters: 150 Letters You Were Never Meant to See a painfully entertaining twelve-minute read. Edited by former Life magazine editor Bill Shapiro (and presented like Davy Rothbart's Found series), the book delivers exactly what it purports: random personal letters from people who are either wildly ecstatic or profoundly depressed over the condition of their romantic existence. (One of my favorite entries is from a person who just printed the word liar 183 consecutive times.) Judging from the contents of these notes, we appear to live in a society that is sex crazed and optimistic yet consumed with deep regret. This is probably true. Making matters all the more interesting is Shapiro's epilogue -- he contacts several of the contributors and finds out how the relationship worked out, postletter.”
—Esquire, Chuck Klosterman
“Bill Shapiro (Time Inc.'s development editor) collects extremely private correspondence, which he has amassed in Other People's Love Letters. The notes, e-mails, telegrams, and letters appear as copies of the originals, in all their faded, tearstained glory. The earliest examples come off as gorgeous and romantic, whether they're pages of elegant script or a few words scrawled on a cocktail napkin. E-mail seems to have had a decidedly negative effect on the art, if ''Am having terribly naughty thoughts again today, and I was wondering if you might want to hear about them'' is any indication. After compulsively flipping through to the last page, I have just one question: How did Shapiro get people to part with these?”
“From the moment Bill Shapiro stumbled upon an old love letter that wasn’t his (it was an ode to his then girlfriend from some earlier man), he was hooked. His new book, Other People’s Love Letters, reprints 150 of the many hundreds he’s collected over the years. Strictly speaking, they’re not all declarations of love. Some are Dear Johns; others are postmortems of failed relationships. And not all of them are letters, in the stationary-and-envelope sense. They’re scrawled across postcards, crammed onto Post-its, scribbled on cocktail napkins and matchbooks. Some are old (Peter J. Dougherty, chief of police, to ‘dearest Lizzie,’ dated December 22, 1911); some are new (e-mails, text messages, more e-mails). Should going through them strike you as voyeuristic, beware. They’re addictive.”
More than 150 writers from 40 events will gather in New York City for PEN World Voices Festival of International Literature, April 28 – May 4, 2014.
For its 10th anniversary, the festival celebrates those who have dared to stand ‘on the edge,’ risking their careers, and sometimes their lives, to speak out for their art and beliefs. Join us for a wide range of events, including debates, one-on-one conversations, participatory workshops and performances in venues throughout the city. Use the code PEN14 (use PEN2014 for events at The Public Theater) and receive a 20 percent discount on most events. www.worldvoicesfestival.org