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Other People's Mail: An Anthology of Letter Stories

“Captivating stories in an anthology of epistolary fiction from the last 50 years. While the word epistolary may evoke memories of such 18th-century classics as Samuel Richardson's Pamela, Pool (Writing/Radcliffe Seminars) proves the letter story to be a truly modern, and perhaps even postmodern, form of prose. The 17 pieces she includes and individually introduces (all of them previously published) are from such notable authors as Alice Munro, Nadine Gordimer, and Julio Cortazar, who supply perhaps the strangest and most intense stories in the collection...Warning: Reading these fantastic letters might make your own next trip to the mailbox seem a bore.”


“In an age of cell phones and electronic pagers, when written correspondence seems in danger of virtual extinction, epistolary fiction remains an effective narrative device. Musing on the continuing appeal of letter writing as a literary form, editor Pool has assembled a collection of 17 stories from notable authors including Gail Godwin, Julio Cortazar, Tadeusz Borowski and Nadine Gordimer. The pieces live up to the intriguing promise of the title, drawing the reader into the intimate circle that is the epistolary tale...An education in the power and variety of the epistolary story, as well as a fascinating glimpse of ‘other people's mail.’”

Publishers Weekly

In Other People's Mail, Gail Pool has had the wonderful idea of bringing together 17 short stories that are told through letters. In letters we see the schemes and delusions of characters both clearly and subtly; and many of the stories here are extremely funny for that reason. Low begrudgery, self-regard, transparent cunning, and misapprehension are the more brilliantly conveyed because of their being revealed inadvertently. The contributions of A. A. Milne and Donna Kline are first-rate examples of this. Other stories are far more complex and–in the case of Alice Munro's "A Wilderness Station" and Tadeusz Borowski's "Auschwitz, Our Home (A Letter)"–even sinister. But every one of them is wickedly absorbing."

–Katherine A. Powers, Boston Sunday Globe

“The prevalence of e-mail in our culture has given us a chance to recall something letter writers and readers have always known: that people will express themselves intimately in print in a way they may not in conversation. The page–or, now, the screen–invites confession, and both real and invented characters often take up the invitation, pouring their interior reflections out to the distant friend or lover at the other end of the correspondence... This has given letters great appeal to storytellers, as Gail Pool notes in the introduction to her lively and entertaining anthology, Other People's Mail.”

–Sylvia Brownrigg, Newsday

“Collections of short stories are assembled for a variety of reasons... This collection is unique in that the entire exposition of each piece is conveyed through correspondence of some sort. Editor Pool has selected stories from a remarkably diverse collection of authors... Some stories are comic, some serious, and some tragic... The result is an entertaining and moving collection.”

–Danise Hoover, Booklist

“Letter-writing seems a lost art these days, yet epistolary short fiction may be making a comeback. Bringing together 17 authors from around the globe... editor Gail Pool presents a fresh look at the "letter story"...Pool prefaces each story with interesting background information and provides a selected list of additional letter stories at the end of the book; she also offers a stimulating introduction... As the first anthology of its kind, Other People's Mail is valuable not only because it brings together great writing talents, but because it gives us a way to examine more closely the tools and techniques of a specific form.”

–Christopher Tinney, Rain Taxi

“The best of the stories are gems and make Other People's Mail an extraordinarily valuable book to have on the shelf. The best of the stories use the form of the epistle to explore the possibilities of a fragmented narrative, of a confidential exchange which leaves much out and which implies the unspoken, of people who are separated by space and time and joined through written words... In addition to satisfying our unseemly need to snoop into other people's private thoughts and personal affairs, Other People's Mail is not only a very good anthology, but is potentially a very useful one for teachers of creative writing. Courses with titles like 'Fiction Forms' are on the books in most MFA programs across the country, but there are very few anthologies which actually define and present these supposed forms. Other People's Mail is a book with much classroom potential, and it serves to spotlight an under-used, but potentially superb, fictional form. It's a book worth having on the shelf, and I'm going to keep it on mine.”

–Eric Miles Williamson, American Book Review