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Yours Ever: People and Their Letters

3.21 of 5 stars 3.21  ·  rating details  ·  115 ratings  ·  40 reviews
A delightful investigation of the art of letter writing, Yours Ever explores masterpieces dispatched through the ages by messenger, postal service, and BlackBerry.

Here are Madame de Sévigné’s devastatingly sharp reports from the French court, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s tormented advice to his young daughter, the casually brilliant musings of Flannery O’Connor, the lustful boas
Paperback, 352 pages
Published December 7th 2010 by Vintage (first published January 1st 2009)
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Thomas Mallon's previous book about people and their diaries ("A Book of One's Own") was extraordinary - it set the standard by which any other books on the topic should be judged. It didn't seem possible for his subsequent book on plagiarism ("Stolen Words") to reach the same level of excellence, but it did.

It's perhaps not altogether surprising that this latest book didn't match the brilliance of the earlier two (if nothing else, the statistical phenomenon of regression toward the mean would

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
4.0 out of 5 stars Not What I Expected, But Still a Wonderful Read, January 15, 2010

Yours Ever was not the book I expected it to be. I thought it would be a collection of letters from a variety of people and characters throughout history along with brief asides, historical commentary, and the like by Thomas Mallon. Instead Yours Ever is organized in thematic chapters on nine broad topics like Friendship, Advice, and War. Also, it does not include
Eric Woodard
It felt like a series of small essays about letters very loosely connected. It had very little narrative drive, and he was bad at making me care about the letters of anyone I wasn't already familiar with. I loved the sections about F. Scott Fitzgerald and Oscar Wilde, but he just assumed we knew of everybody he wrote about, so he didn't try to build any interest in them. Occasionally fascinating, often boring and poorly structured.
I do like reading collections of letters and have greatly enjoyed collections from Robertson Davies, Flannery O'Connor, Evelyn Waugh. Mallon's book is a thematic excursion through some great letter writers (though Mallon is unafraid of bringing up the whiny and the contemptible as well). The chapter titles are wonderful and organize the book: absence, friendship, advice, complaint, love, spirit, confession, war, and prison. Hs comments are thoughtful and wry and a delight to dip into. This is no ...more
Bookmarks Magazine
When Mallon began this book in the early 1990's, he could not have foreseen the detrimental effect technology would have on his subject, and his inspired selections, perceptive explanations, and fascinating asides left critics feeling rather nostalgic for this moribund, if celebrated, art. Straightforward and sensible, Mallon resists the temptation to psychoanalyze these writers, preferring instead to let them speak eloquently for themselves--although critics agreed that his own prose is every b ...more
In Mallon's attempt to consolidate should a broad and rich subject as the epistole of our great thinkers and writers, he delivers the prescriptive rather than a contemplative view of the form, historic and current. These attempts to elucidate only exaggerate the impenetrable that is caused by leaving too much out and offering too much in. And while I have a lot of respect for Mallon, (as a curator on the topic, he is obviously incredible!), and I did enjoy this work on certain levels, the erudit ...more
A very interesting book. I picked it up a few weeks ago and couldn't seem to get going with it but a long weekend with bad weather gave me the time and patience to appreciate it. Subtitle, "People and Their Letters", generally means literary people, occasionally historical political figures. This is also a book about letters, a bit about the people who wrote them, but seldom includes more than a line or two of the letters themselves. That's generally okay with me and has even made me think about ...more
This book was pretty disappointing. I had high hopes because I'm a big fan of written letters but the book is more stories of people who wrote letters and little of the actual letters. It's limited to a few quotes from an actual letter and a couple pages about the story of the letters back and forth. Also, the author uses some ridiculous vocabulary. I'll share a few of his greatest hits.

pulchritudinous: physically beautiful; comely.
impecuniously: having little or no money; penniless; poor.
Elisha Condie
Heard this one reviewed on NPR and thought it sounded wonderful. Thank heavens I didn't buy it, because it's mostly boring and only a tiny bit wonderful.
Mallon has taken letters from famous people and described them and organized them into chapters on themes like friendship, love, war, prison, etc. I just keep shaking my head, wondering how it sounded so interesting on the radio and in real life it was just so hard to get through. The excerpts from Wallis Simpson's letters were among the more
Well, it took me three weeks to read. That should say it all. It was very interesting. And the writing was good enough. But, this book is about letters. It is about the power of the written word. The snippets he provides as examples intermixed with his biographical commentaries just make you want to put his book down and go find the letter anthologies to read. Personally, I would've liked more of the actual letters and less of his interpretations.

It was fun to read these mini-biographies and lea
Quite brilliant 2 to 3 page profiles of famous letter writers. And not so famous. Whether it's old favourites we already knew like Sullivan Ballou, Helen Hanff or Mark Twain or new found gems like Noel Coward, S.J. Perelman or Neal Cassady, Mallon's effective in getting to the inner essence of the writer. He reveals the nastiness of Ayn Rand, the selfishness of Gerard Manley Hopkins as neatly as he opens up the greatness of Oscar Wilde and Abe Lincoln. His opinions are not mushy as he shows in h ...more
Jan 25, 2010 Gloria rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: History buffs
Shelves: non-fiction
Am only giving this book a lower rating simply because it did not meet my particular expectations as to what it was. This is a historical compilation of letters from people in the 1400s onward. There are many interesting tidbits and factoids about famous historical people. The chapters are divided into the following subjects: war, prison, absence, friendship, advice, complaint, love, spirit, and confession. It has a decidedly intellectual tone and unfortunately not all that much that might reall ...more
I picked this up because when reading about various authors, their personal letters often seem more interesting than their books. If you've noticed that too then you'll like this book.

It doesn't provide large sections of letters, often just a sentence or two plucked here and there to illustrate themes in the subject's letter writing.

Some of the chosen people were a bit obscure, but the book does not claim to only be about superstars (though many superstars are represented).

"A reader craves some sparkling artifice, not just sense and precision." Though the author of this book wrote it, he doesn't seem to realize it. This book is just about some letters - it's an overview of an assortment of letters written at various times. It's not revelatory, conclusive, or even exhaustive. It doesn't have a historical angle, or really any kind of thesis. Unfortunately, it didn't teach me much or inspire me, nothing sparked or sparkled, so I think it's one to pass over.
Elizabeth Davidson
Not a quick read (obviously) but the work Mallon put into this made it thoughtful and insightful. A glimpse into some of our most famous minds, and some lesser known, this book is entirely about the human condition. The regularity behind the 'big' moments of life shines through - letters from home in war, letters of love between friends and family, reveals the soft, warm, and sad parts of who we are as individuals.
Donna Jo Atwood
This is not about how to write letters, but about letters that prolific letter writers have written. Each chapter (Love Letters, letters of advice, letters of complaint, etc.) contains several sections devoted to individual writers. I was disappointed that there were only very small excerpts from any one writer. There are several people whose collected letters I would like to read.

This should have been titled Yours Ever: The Author and His Essays of Well-Known Peoples' Letters.
A bit of a disappointment in that the letters (of which there are some brilliant ones) do not make up the bulk of this book. I felt like I was being teased with cunning wit and prose of the letter writer, only to have it snatched away and being forced to read the boring commentary of Mr. Mallon.
I began this book and then ended up putting it down very quickly. I usually love epistolary fiction/non-fiction. My complaint here was that the author gave too much history and background and not enough text of the actual letters. It was like getting to smell something delicious but never actually being able to taste it!
I really enjoyed reading this book and discovered facts about authors/writers previously unknown to me. It strikes me as the type of book benefitting from rereads as well. The cover itself is intriguing and what lies between the pages proves to be even more so.
Thoroughly enjoyable.
I liked the concept, and some of the discussions of correspondence were very engaging, but it was hard to read straight through. Probably more enjoyable as a series of short stories, where you pick and choose or skip around and read what interests you.
A must-read if you are a letterphile, a book nerd, or love history. The scope of the letters discussed and the humor with which Mallon confronts historical greats is delightful. I picked it up and finished in two days flat, even though it's a dense read.
not what i was expecting... thought it would be actual letters grouped by theme (absence, friendship, advice, complaint, love, spirit, confession, war, prison) with short intro's by editor but there were no actual letters in their entirety.
Heard about this book through NPR. Though it was not what I expected, there are some great sections, including detail on Jung and Freud's relationship and the fact that Faulkner would sign his notes home with a "love, billy".
The Book Studio
Watch Bethanne Patrick interview Thomas Mallon about his new book Yours Ever: People and Their Letters on The Book Studio.
I was disappointed that this book was about letter writing, and not a compilation of letters. I wanted to read the actual letters, not Mallon's editorial on letters written.
Catherine Woodman
Love letters and letter writing, found nothing that I love about it in this book, nor were there any great stories that were told in letters--lots of information, not much depth.
Catherine Woodman
Love letters and letter writing, found nothing that I love about it in this book, nor were there any great stories that were told in letters--lots of information, not much depth.
I am still attached to the art of letter writing and cherished this book. Sometimes I found myself wishing there were more direct passages from letters and less commentary.
Oh the joys of real letters. Love it, love it. Great stories and made me appreciate the letters I have written and received (and saved) even more.
So sad I had to return this before my trip. Lovely book, and I plan to check it out again.
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Thomas Mallon is a novelist, critic and director of the creative writing program at The George Washington University.

He attended Brown University as an undergraduate and earned a Master of Arts and a Ph.D. from Harvard. He received the Ingram Merrill Foundation Award in 1994 and won a Rockefeller Fellowship in 1987. Mallon taught English at Vassar College from 1979-1991.

Mallon is the author of the
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