February 16, 2010

Yours Ever: A Book Review & Giveaway


Late last year I saw posts on a couple of other letter writing blogs about the new book by Thomas Mallon titled Yours Ever. The reviews were encouraging. So, when I was approached by Pantheon Books to do a review of the book and a giveaway here on Everyday Correspondence, I accepted the offer immediately. While there were no expectations of a positive review in my agreement with Pantheon, I still feel compelled to give Yours Ever strong marks.

The New York Times gave the book a good review for it's content, but Mallon's appreciation for the written letter aside, two things about the book struck me as both refreshing and unique. First, I appreciated Mallon's organization. Rather than taking the reader through a chronological journey of people and their letters over the years, Mallon organizes the chapters in Yours Ever by subject matter. In doing so, Mallon is able to draw connections between different approaches to delivering the same message. The organizational style also allows Mallon to analyze the impacts of technology on written correspondence. For example, in the chapter "Complaint," Mallon observes:

Sarcasm ("My dog left home when he heard I had voted for you") depends, in both the writer and the reader, on an appreciation of distortion. Paranoia has no time for such contrivances. It is terribly urgent, under the gun and ready to assert itself in ALL CAPS, which even now pack an unsettling punch when they show up in the pixels of angry e-mail - though nothing can be more upsetting than the slithering hate fax, whose paper seems to come, somehow, from the sender himself and not the recipient's own machine.
Mallon's acknowledgment of technological contributions to correspondence is the second point that made Yours Ever stand out to me. Mallon takes a more or less neutral position on the effects technology in the form of e-mail and texting have had on personal correspondence. Rather, he points out the positives and negatives, in the hopes of enriching the the reader's appreciation of correspondence in all forms. Before detailing the "lack of emotional affect to much e-mail," Mallon notes that while e-mail doesn't have sentimental intangibles like envelopes sealed with a kiss:

[E]lectronic mail has a few of its own oddball, endearing traits: the subject line that hangs around long past the point at which it has anything to do with what the correspondence is now discussing; the whimsical screen names that it shuttles between. Shipboard cable addresses, temporary handles for the transoceanic traveler, used to have something of the same charm. Jessica Mitford's was ELKSHATRACK, chosen after a friend told her "You need news from home like an elk needs a hat rack."
It is Mallon's organization and his treatment of technology that made Yours Ever a stand out read, for me. So, if you are looking for an entertaining account of correspondence from some of the world's most prolific figures and writers, without the "woe for the modern age and it's lack of good letters" attitude, then I recommend this book for you.

If the $26.95 price tag for the first run hardcover is a bit too much for your wallet at the moment, then I have good news! Pantheon Books is sponsoring a giveaway! Books may be shipped anywhere in the world, so this contest is open all readers of Everyday Correspondence.

Giveaway Rules:

1. Please, leave a comment after this post with your name and an e-mail address at which I can reach you should you be picked the winner of the giveaway. You may enter once in this fashion.

2. Additional entries may be had by tweeting about this giveaway and/or linking to this post from your website. Please leave an additional comment with a link to the tweet/post/website for each additional entry.

3. A winner will be randomly selected using the random number generator on Random.org at 1 PM EDT on Sunday, February 21, 2010. A short time later, the winner will be announced on Everyday Correspondence and the individual will be contacted by e-mail.

Best of luck to you all!

Yours ever,

James

17 comments:

Stephanie said...

Stephanie Cascio
stephmcascio@gmail.com

Stephanie said...

What a thorough review - and thanks for the chance to win it!

another Stephanie
crowned.girl@gmail.com

Stephanie said...

also tweeted about it here: http://twitter.com/syntaxoflife/status/9310441080

Stephanie
crowned.girl@gmail.com

Julie (Okami) said...

Sounds like a wonderful book. Count me in.

BigEyes World said...

I want to read it now!!

BigEyes World said...

http://twitter.com/BigeyesWorld/status/9312832635

laura[at]lauralvarez.com

Anonymous said...

Nice review and I love to win things.

Jan said...

Thanks for the review & to Pantheon for sponsoring the giveaway. Sounds like a fun read.

chandlerguera said...

Sounds like an interesting read! chandlerguera@hotmail.com

ravensmarch said...

That does sound jolly!

Dirck de Lint
ravensmarch -at- gmail. com

M&M said...

Oh, this looks quite interesting! You can contact me at melody.donais at gmail dot com

Bart Newton said...

There is also a review of this book in the latest National Review Magazine.

Bart Newton
newtonbart@gmail.com

armchair traveler never! said...

Hope I get lucky this time! :) Fingers crossed. Thanks so much for organizing another giveaway.

Yurena
worldcitizenyes@gmail.com

Kunal said...

Count me in!

antares784@aol.com

PostMuse said...

I would love to read this, though I think it is after 1 p.m. If not, I am postmuse [at] gmail [dot] com

emmmy said...

Emily McDonald
emilyannamcdonald@gmail.com

fingers and toes crossed!

Cari Polena said...

This book sounds awesome. I'm happy to have found your blog.

Cari Polena
swankylifestyle@hotmail.com