Four Letter Word: Original Love Letters

This anthology features love letters penned by the likes of Leonard Cohen, Margaret Atwood, Jonathan Lethem, Audrey Niffenegger, Neil Gaiman and more. It is also probably the only anthology of love letters in the world that counts “Dark, funny, ironic, sarcastic,” among the first adjectives on its review page (care of the Chicago Tribune).

In among the hilarious, quirky, and delightfully sardonic are, of course, the type of one-liners that seem devastatingly romantic to our generation of neurotic over-thinkers, like this one from Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s letter to her partner after he sends her a text suggesting they start talking about marriage: “It frightens me, how easily I now speak in the first person plural.”

She follows a meditation on why she likes her beloved (because like is different than love-like requires reason) with the disclaimer “I will, by the way, never write anything like this to you again.” She then says that she’s been re-reading his text for the past two days, and has never felt so alive. So they should probably start talking about marriage. Perfection. 

Dear Scott, Dearest Zelda: The Love Letters of F.Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald

From its introduction, by their granddaughter Eleanor, this book invokes the romance of the jazz age, as well as the madness and alcoholism that coloured the great romance of F. Scott Fitzgerald and his wife Zelda. She calls it an “emotional biography” of two people who were deeply, deeply in love. The book provides not only insight into their love for one another, but into the time.

Zelda meditates on the “pink helplessness” characteristic of young Southern women, who wanted nothing more than to be consumed by a man’s identity and love. After the publishing of his first novel, F. Scott Fitzgerald, 23 at the time, told the press that his greatest ambitions were to “write the best novel that ever was and to stay in love with his wife forever.” Read the book to find out if he did. 

My Faraway One: Selected Letters of Georgia O’Keeffe and Alfred Stieglitz: Volume One, 1915-1933

Photographer Alfred Stieglitz and artist Georgia O’Keeffe were together for over 30 years, and these letters capture physical yearning, and an almost boundless joy in each other. From Stieglitz to O’Keeffe, on how much they have in common: “Both turn everything we touch into something really living.” Does it get any better than that?

Dear, Dear Brenda: The Love Letters of Henry Miller to Brenda Venus

In his last days, a bedridden Henry Miller wrote over a thousand letters to Brenda Venus, the last great love of his life. This collection features commentary by Venus, and the letters intersperse eroticism with declarations of passionate love and admiration like this: “You are one of the famous Greek goddesses- there were quite a few, you know.  Women weren’t always the pawns for men.  And some were wild and fierce.”

~ Haley Cullingham