The (lost) art form of letter writing...


Frances and Bernard, by Carlene Bauer is a book I do have marked down as To Read. Yes, absolutely it was added to my piles! And today I saw this wonderful opportunity the publishers of Frances and Bernard, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt has created.  You can enter (using the link above) to win your own set of personalized stationary and, you can also click on any of the four postcards to send them to a loved one or post to their Facebook page.

This again aroused my thinking on this subject, as honestly, it has been something that I’ve been thinking often about lately. Truly. It’s due in particular to those books that I absolutely adore and covet, the ones that are written in epistolary form. Even before the release of this book, and the unique spin that HMH has created surrounding its release, I’ve been thinking about this “lost art” of letter writing and what it means to the preservation of our personal histories. Or actually, how our technological age has presented us with a curious dilemma, in my opinion. The form of letter writing, and I mean the kind done on paper with pen and mailed, is really no longer done. Isn’t that a great shame?

The past couple of books I’ve read (most recently, The House Girl by Tara Conklin) and ones that I’ve absolutely adored in the past (The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society for certain) have all used this style of writing. Also, there was this book I read back in 2011 that was FABULOUS and used old postcards, letters, mementos to tell its story, 13 rue Therese, by Elena Mauli Shapiro.  Actually, I so want you to visit the web site that is specially devoted to capturing the real box of mementos Shapiro used to craft this story. It had me thinking of how sad it is that no longer will we have the ability to open up a shoe box, or a department store box (as I’m reading about in The Tin Horse, by Janice Steinberg) tucked back in the corners of our closets and uncover piles of past love letters, or correspondence between two sisters, etc. What does that mean for us? For me, it’s concerning that all of this personal history will not be recorded as it was in the past.

Last year I was also able to get to the National Museum of American History in Washington, DC and there were countless displays using preserved letters from many, many different periods in American history. What an absolute delight that was. But now…how will this be preserved? Printed emails under glass cases? Text messages? That’s a real shame. :-( Don’t you think?

I want to enter this contest so that I can win personal stationary too! (alas, I’ll have to settle for finding stationary on my own, it’s open to the US only.) But regardless of that geographical glitch, a spark has been lit to be more mindful of storing my personal memories, and also, how saddened I am that any past letters I kept were tossed away (so carelessly!) when we moved in to a new home many years ago.

At any rate, Frances and Bernard will be moved up to the tippy, tippy top of the reading pile and kudos to you HMH for this remarkable and wonderful opportunity, and for working to bring this lost art form to the forefront.

Frances and Bernard (from Goodreads)

“A novel of stunning subtlety, grace, and depth . . . compos[ed in] dueling letters of breathtaking wit, seduction, and heartbreak.” —Booklist, starred review

A letter can spark a friendship.
A friendship can change your life.

In the summer of 1957, Frances and Bernard meet at an artists’ colony. She finds him faintly ridiculous, but talented. He sees her as aloof, but intriguing. Afterward, he writes her a letter. Soon they are immersed in the kind of fast, deep friendship that can take over—and change the course of—our lives.

From points afar, they find their way to New York and, for a few whirling years, each other. The city is a wonderland for young people with dreams: cramped West Village kitchens, rowdy cocktail parties stocked with the sharp-witted and glamorous, taxis that can take you anywhere at all, long talks along the Hudson River as the lights of the Empire State Building blink on above.

Inspired by the lives of Flannery O’Connor and Robert Lowell, Frances and Bernard imagines, through new characters with charms entirely their own, what else might have happened. It explores the limits of faith, passion, sanity, what it means to be a true friend, and the nature of acceptable sacrifice. In the grandness of the fall, can we love another person so completely that we lose ourselves? How much should we give up for those we love? How do we honor the gifts our loved ones bring and still keep true to our dreams?

In witness to all the wonder of kindred spirits and bittersweet romance, Frances and Bernard is a tribute to the power of friendship and the people who help us discover who we are.