Four Letter Word ed. Joshua Knelman & Rosalind Porter

4letter.jpgThe love letter. The first thing that pops into my mind when I think of the love letter are timeless words of romance, nostalgic thoughts, sonnets, kisses, all that stuff. But Joshua Knelman and Rosalind Porter have treated us to something a little different with Four Letter Word: Invented Correspondence from the Edge of Modern Romance. This is a collection of fictional love letters written by 41 different authors, and what an amazing and diverse set of authors it is! There are a few of those timeless and romantic letters in here, but for the most part the reader plays the part of a voyeur as love is examined in all it’s forms.

The letters are not always sweet, just as love is not always sweet. Love is sometimes heartbreaking. Sometimes love is not reciprocated. Sometimes one party is not aware that the other party even knows they exist. Sometimes love is a little psychotic. Sometimes love is not between humans…one of the stories is a love letter from Bigfoot to Santa Claus where Bigfoot writes “Bigfoot heart sad like kitten who choke to death on pretty ribbon“. Now how sad is that?

There’s something in this book that everyone can relate to. The letters in this book are heavy on memories with a strong feeling of melancholy. There were two stories in particular that struck me right to the core and I had to put the book down for a second after reading them. Both were written about Hurricane Katrina. The first was written by Joseph Boyden who is a professor of writing at the University of New Orleans where I went to get my undergrad degree. His story is written as a series of missing persons ads posted in the classifieds of the Times Picayune (our local newspaper) in the days following Hurricane Katrina as a man searches for his wife who slipped from his hand and fell into the flood waters. As the days pass, his ads get more detailed and he writes messages to her. I did the same thing after Katrina with Megan, though I knew she wasn’t in flood waters. She had evacuated to a place where a lot of trees had fallen and cell phones didn’t work, so the only way to find anything out was through these online classifieds…so I posted every day on these classifieds looking to hear if she was ok, worrying sick until I finally got a phone call from her a week later once phones worked again.

There’s another story by Audrey Niffenneger about Hurricane Katrina. A woman’s lover was in New Orleans during Katrina and she hasn’t been able to get in touch with her, so she writes her a letter knowing that there’s nowhere to send it, just to get her feelings out. It’s a beautiful story. Megan did this. When we did meet up again after the evacuations she gave me a journal that she wrote in where she just wrote letters to me every day while we couldn’t get in touch with each other.

So these stories reminded me of the power of love. Not necessarily the happiest moments of our relationship, but how strong love is, and I think that’s the point of this book. Love is a really powerful force. It’s not always happy. It can be blissful when things are good and it can be devastating when things are down. Love can be between two people be it a couple/student & teacher (this one’s popping up in the news a lot, huh?)/parent & child, between a person and a city…it can be unhealthy, it can save a life, it can ruin a life, it can tear down barriers, it can do all of these things. But it’s something that unites us all.

I can’t think of a single person that I would not recommend this book too. It’s that good. There’s something in it for everyone. There were a couple of stories that weren’t for me and with 41 different authors, I doubt that everyone will like everything. But there’s sure to be something for everyone. Favorites of mine included an amazing story by Neil Gaiman, Audrey Niffenegger, Joseph Boyden, Tessa Brown (Another incredible story), Chris Bachelder, Gautam Malkani, Hari Kunzru (great story), and Mandy Sayer, who I have to read more of!

I got this book from the library…my first book from the library of 2008, and now I’m really wishing I would’ve bought it as I’m guessing I’ll want to go back to it again and again. Hope you enjoy it if you read it!


24 Responses

  1. Ohh-this sounds so good. I had to giggle in your second paragraph when you were like, “Sometimes love is a little pyschotic.” And I’m very glad that both you and Megan were ok after Katrina.

  2. That’s so nice that Megan did that for you. Very romantic, really.

  3. The Book sounds interesting. And yeah, it’s interesting when party a doesn’t know party b exists. Think of it…when we die and are in heaven, we’ll find out how many people thought daily about us with such love…and we were utterly unaware of them. Honestly, for all I know, Brad Pitt may have passed by me on a street in NYC one day and fallen madly in love with me. He pined for a majorly long time and then finally had to move on with his life. ::sigh:: Hey, it’s fun to dream.

    Megan sounds lovely. A real sweetie.

    Great review.

  4. oh! oh! I see the Pern book looming!! Are you going to read all 3 that are in the book???

  5. You have a way of describing books that makes me hungry for them!

    We’ve not had a big disaster over here, I can’t imagine how it must have been for all of you during and after Katrina. We saw pictures on the news but they seemed impossibly far away, and of course there weren’t many people in them. We only got to see the stubborn few who stayed in their homes and a few vague reports of the circumstances of the evacuations. I’m glad you found each other ok.

  6. Eva, It was very good! And if you read this one you’ll see why I said that love is a little psychotic, lol. The majority of the letters in here show people in a not so normal state of mind…kinda fun. The Neil Gaiman story was the perfect example. His story was about a street performer who performs as a statue who is writing to a pedestrian that he’s in love with. He’s so good at what he does that basically he’s able to go completely unnoticed if he wants to. And he’s revealing to this girl in the letter that he knows everything about her life…really creepy! I think you’d love it though!

    Other Chris, It was extremely nice and romantic πŸ™‚ I’ve only been able to read it once because a lot of it’s really sad, but I’ll always hang on to it and neither one of it will forget those days…don’t know if that’s a good thing or a bad thing!

    Carole, Ha! I love it…You know, I’ve never thought of it like that, but it really would be interesting to know how many crushes you’ve actually had. I know I’ve had my fair share of girlfriends that could have been but most definitely never were! Interesting thought there…I think you’d like this book…it’s a good one.

    Deslily, Yep!!! I’m about to crack it open now. I’m starting with book 1 and then moving on to something else, then coming back to book 2, etc. I have too many obligations that need to be read “now”. Don’t know how I got myself into that :p But I’m most definitely reading all three of them, I’m not going to stop at just the first…they’ll just be spaced out a little bit.

    Stormfilled, Well eat them up πŸ˜€ Thanks, stormfilled! It was ugly down here..that’s the best way to describe it. Everything was ugly…the way the government handled things, what our cd had become, the amount of death…it was just shocking to watch everything familiar become unfamiliar…hope it never happens again!

  7. Sounds like a really interesting read. I like a good psycho romance once in a while. πŸ™‚

    Wow that must have been scary to be separated and not be able to find each other. Its the kind of thing you never imagine happening here in the states. You always think that only happens in Africa. I guess it goes to show how vulnerable our country is. If only the government could learn from its mistakes…

  8. this sounds quite beautiful. and very interesting. especially if one had a project or something. like, when i was teaching i would definitely have used this to work around. very cool.

  9. Kim, Oh there are plenty of psycho romance stories in here πŸ˜‰ But there are some sweet ones too. It was the scariest thing in the world to be separated like that…you can imagine the thoughts that were flying through my head. And that was exactly what I kept thinking…I felt like I was in a third world country! If only we could learn from our mistakes…I hope we do…

    JP, It’s an incredible book. There’s a UK version out too so keep an eye out for it! I think this would be an awesome project for a teacher. We did something sort of like this when we read Plato’s symposium…only we didn’t write a love letter, we just wrote on love…very cool assignment. I think you’d enjoy this one!

  10. I was coveting this one at the bookstore on Sunday…it sounds like a beautiful book, and it includes so many authors I love!

    I can imagine how personal it must have been for you with the stories about Katrina. How awful that you didn’t hear from Megan for a week! Thankfully you were both okay.

    I think I might end up caving and ordering this one before long.

  11. This sounds great!

    How lovely that Megan did that for you. So romantic. πŸ™‚

    You’re so right, about love. And having finished Lisey’s Story (finally), I see what you meant about it. πŸ™‚

  12. Nymeth, You have to get it!!! You’d absolutely love it..I think you’ll cave too πŸ˜‰ The whole Katrina mess was awful. I’m just glad it ended better for us than it did for so many other people. It did produce two great stories for this anthology though!

    Quix, It was awesome! Like i said, I think anyone would like enjoy it. Megan’s quite the romantic πŸ™‚ Much more than me I’m afraid :/ I try, but can’t compare…she has that artistic gene. I’m so glad you finished Lisey’s Story!

  13. That sounds wonderful. I love that second paragraph of your review, particularly the bit Eva commented on: “Sometimes love is a little psychotic.” Your classifieds and Megan’s journal had me puffing up. How totally romantic, although I’m sure at the time you both felt a bit desperate for information. I remember that horrible cut-off-from-the-world experience far too well. It was uniquely alarming.

  14. Nancy, It really was a wonderful book. With 41 different authors, you’d think that there would be quite a few that I didn’t like, but there were only about 2 or 3 that really did nothing for me. And if you read it you’ll understand why I said “Love is a little psychotic” lol…lots of stalker letters in here, but they’re oddly sweet…the “you don’t know me…” type….or “I can’t stand life without you anymore” type. The Katrina aftermath was just awful. I really couldn’t ever read that little journal that Megan gave me again. But it’s sweet to have it. Lots of thoughts ran through both of our minds…hope it never happens again!

  15. […] book, 1 review book, etc. And if I want to throw something else in the mix (like the previous Four Letter Word ) I’ll do it! I guess it’s all in keeping a balance and trying not to get overwhelmed. […]

  16. Stalker letters? Ewwww.

    Yeah, I wouldn’t want to relive that experience. Once is more than enough. And, we had it easy, compared to y’all.

  17. Bookfool, Don’t let it sway you…they’re very well written stalker letters πŸ˜‰ lol

  18. I haven’t heard of this one at all, but what an incredible premise. I’ve been thinking a lot about the lost art of letter-writing lately and how to somehow incorporate letter writing into a project or a challenge…hmmm…. maybe the Once Upon a Time Challenge….

  19. Carl, It’s an awesome book, and it has one of the best Neil Gaiman stories that I’ve read in it! I had been thinking a lot about letter writing too even before I read this book. It really is a lost art. I’d like to get into it again. There’s an intrigue about it…with cool papers and wax seals and all that stuff. I think it would make a great project for a challenge!

  20. Must have this. Must. This truly sounds like one incredible book.

    And thanks for sharing a bit of you and Megan’s story. I can’t imagine that it’s easy to look back on those days, and yet that it’s impossible not to.

  21. Debi, Yes, you must have it πŸ˜‰ It’s such an incredible little book and the more and more I think of it the more and more I think I have to go out and actually buy a copy…I don’t want to return my library copy!!! Definitely not easy to look back on the Katrina days, but like you said, it’s part of who we are now, so it’s hard not too πŸ™‚

  22. Thanks, Chris! This one sounds great!

  23. […] Alphabet by Neil Gaiman 9. Tweak by Nic Sheff 10. Odd and the Frost Giants by Neil Gaiman 11. Four Letter Word ed. by Joshua Knelman and Rosalind Porter 12. Fablehaven: Grip of the Shadow Plague by Brandon […]

  24. […] Four Letter Word ed. by Joshua Knelman & Rosalind Porter – This was the first book of the year that truly WOWed me. In fact, it was a library book and I loved it so much that I had to go and buy a copy. It’s a collection of short stories written by an amazing group of author’s that are all written in the form of a love letter. Doesn’t sound all that incredibly exciting, but trust me, it is. Favorites were Neil Gaiman’s and Audrey Niffenegger’s stories…they stand out to me still.Β  […]

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