Four Letter Word: New Love Letters, ed Joshua Knelman and Rosalind Porter

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The Independent Culture

The big problem with love letters is that they're intimate; private, not public. Fictional letters such as in this anthology require a reproduction of that intimate feel. It means not having to explain to your private correspondent things which they would already know but your public readership doesn't. Unlike, for instance, Miriam Toews's letter to a young adopted woman, Cadence Loewen, in which she feels the need to explain about "Jackie and Tim, your birth parents". I hadn't got the impression from the story that Cadence might not know who Jackie and Tim were. Other love letters here have a tendency to recap in detail how and where the correspondents met, as if the recipient has had a complete memory lapse.

The tension between the public and the private is only really resolved in the story by AL Kennedy, in which the correspondent is really just talking to herself, or James Robertson's, in which the letter-writer admits, "I will shortly stop writing to you and instead write about you..."

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