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The Letter Left to Me

3.67  ·  Rating details ·  69 Ratings  ·  12 Reviews
Joseph McElroy brings to life a startling story of loss in 'The Letter Left To Me.' Written by a father to his son almost three years before the father's death, the letter in question is discovered a few days after the funeral. Powerful and moving when the boy first opens the envelope, his father's sober words warn him against life's daily distractions.

'The Letter Left To
Hardcover, 151 pages
Published August 12th 1988 by Alfred a Knopf
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Dec 01, 2014 rated it really liked it
Each letter’s becoming different, it’s the person who’s laid eyes on it.

Whenever we send a message out into the world its reception is at the mercy of the interpretation of others, the original artistic expression assessed by the unique individual perspectives of all it touches. Thus is the nature of communication, and the web of preconceived notions, biases, or perhaps simply not listening accurately can take a message and pose and posture the meaning in an endless variety of ways. Thus is the
Nathan "N.R." Gaddis
“This was something that stayed a secret for a while and then emerged from that unseen room into the public world, where it circulated, freely and openly, even though its true, undercover nature, its stolenness, remained concealed.” Ron Loewinsohn Magnetic Fields(s)

Joseph McElroy published The Letter Left to Me in the year following the publication of his massive Women and Men; the former a slender 152 pages, the later a massive 1191. Page count is not the only slendering found in Letter. The le
Nov 18, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Jonathan by: Nathan "N.R." Gaddis
Shelves: favorites
"He disappeared in the dead of winter:
The brooks were frozen, the airports almost deserted,
And snow disfigured the public statues;
The mercury sank in the mouth of the dying day.
What instruments we have agree
The day of his death was a dark cold day.

Far from his illness
The wolves ran on through the evergreen forests,
The peasant river was untempted by the fashionable quays;
By mourning tongues
The death of the poet was kept from his poems.

But for him it was his last afternoon as himself,
An afternoo
Sep 08, 2008 rated it it was ok
Shelves: fiction
It's interesting to read a novel by an experimental writer tackling subject matter that seems more suited for a writer with earnestly romantic sensibilities. Why is it so damn difficult to avoid mentioning the background of a writer such as Joseph McElroy? His prose; its elliptical opacity, its tendency to grasp everything at once, its introspective inquisitiveness, just seems to demand an explanation of sorts. This stuff clearly isn't normal. Stories do not read this way, even if it's a first-p ...more
Charles Kell
This is McElroy's shortest novel (152 pgs), following the sprawling Women and Men (1,192 pgs), and one that leaves the reader with a lonely ache--that momentary feeling of loss that you get after finishing a great, masterful work.

A young man is remembering an event--the sudden death of his father when he was a boy. It is a loss that might have been mourned and put behind him except for an odd event within the larger one: the receipt of a letter the father wrote him, to be opened after his death,
Of the absurd and baffling things in life, I eventually acclimate to most of them - once, as a lab rat for the CDC, I stopped being unnerved by the test chamber life after two days, and a few days after that I started looking upon it with a strange fondness that I still retain. Joseph McElroy bucks that trend. This is my fifth McElroy novel, and immediately it put me into a state of mind as alien as the first. By now, it's a familiar alien-ness, but I'm no closer to possessing whatever skill is ...more
Mike Polizzi
Jun 10, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
McElroy uses the long sentence to draw the reader in. The result is an intimate view of a young man's processing of his father's death. Hypnotic, beautifully observed and humane. He manages to dramatize the action while maintaining his character's dignity and proceeds along the quiet exposition of the thousands of small changes that make up a significant loss. Excellent.
Dec 21, 2015 rated it really liked it
(Okay, so I cheated by a week and read one McElroy before the intended start date of the Great 2016 Joseph McElroy Project. Sue me.)

Falls into the 'didn't enjoy the process, but loved the book' category, a foreign concept to many. Reading McElroy here is like reading a goddamn headache. His stuttering prose demands close attention. Perhaps I should have followed fellow Goodreader Nathan Gaddis' recommendation and not started with The Letter. We will find out as I have the entire McElroy oeuvre p
M. Sarki
Jul 23, 2014 rated it it was ok
Sorry, but I did not think much of this title. Quite a bore actually. Little to be gained by reading it.
Leslie Graff
Feb 08, 2015 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This book just wasn't appealing to me. I didn't find the narrator compelling, not that he was off-putting; he was just uninteresting. When a book is primarily about the narrator's internal experience, the narrator must be compelling. I didn't find the book bad or problematic, just not for me.
Маx Nestelieiev
Jan 12, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: english
a little rest after Women and Men. Some Salinger (who has spotted the sentence about ducks and the park?), some Henry James, some bildungsroman, sometimes boring, well, have to think about it.

David Cain
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Jan 26, 2013
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Jan 22, 2008
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May 17, 2015
Matthew Taylor
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Aug 15, 2011
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Dec 28, 2007
Matthew Taylor
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Feb 24, 2012
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Mar 20, 2008
Alexander Hirka
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Jul 12, 2013
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Jun 01, 2014
John W.
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Joseph McElroy is an American novelist, short story writer, and essayist.

McElroy grew up in Brooklyn Heights, NY, a neighborhood that features prominently in much of his fiction. He received his B.A. from Williams College in 1951 and his M.A. from Columbia University in 1952. He served in the Coast Guard from 1952–4, and then returned to Columbia to complete his Ph.D. in 1961. As an English instru
More about Joseph McElroy...

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