I've always loved biographies, but to me, the most revealing portraits of people are found in their letters. Here are some of my favorites.
Nordstom's personality shines through in her letters to her writers and illustrators. She nurtures, encourages and scolds. I secretly adore her lecture to Russell Hoban about his manuscript which became Bedtime for Francis. Maybe because it teaches so much to anyone who attempts a picture book.
"...I do think it is better but I'm afraid it is going to need a lot more work, Russ. You simply didn't taken any time to set the stage, get characters, think about the situation." She then suggests he create a thirty-two page dummy and rough out the text imagining the pictures. She tells him"...and for heavens sake, take a little time and care. It isn't easy to write a good picture book story."
Flannery O'Connor's letters demonstrate the development of a writer's journey to becoming published. Yes, her love of writing is evident on these pages, but so is her obsessive yearning to be validated.
In a letter to John Updike, E.B. White wrote, "Children, on the whole, have an easier time summing me up then you did. I got a letter from a girl this week saying 'You are a good writer and I was enjoying your book until our dog ate it.'"
White's letters contain charm and make me wish I'd met the man who seemed to keep his boyhood outlook on life.
The book below is not a book of letters, but about the appreciation for them. I own most of Alexandra Stoddard's books, but this is my favorite. And it's her husband, Peter Brown's also. I learned this when I attended her signing and he asked if he, too, could sign it because he loved it so.