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Yours Ever: People and Their Letters Paperback – December 7, 2010

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Yours Ever: People and Their Letters + The Oxford Book of Letters + A Brief History of Diaries: From Pepys to Blogs (Brief Histories)
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. This companion volume to prolific Mallon's 1984 study of diaries, A Book of One's Own, surveys several epistolary subgenres, including friendship, advice, complaint, love, confession, war-zone dispatch and pleas from prison. A 25-year correspondence between Mary McCarthy and Hannah Arendt pleasurably mixes world politics and personal foibles, musings about the Eichmann trial with an unwanted pregnancy and literary gossip. Henry Miller bullied his patient publisher James Laughlin for 30 years (Why should I compromise?... to please you?); Florence Nightingale's angry, agitated letters from the Crimean War show a respect for the suffering soldier and a contempt for complaining nurses; E.M. Forster confides to a friend his homosexual initiation at age 37 by an Egyptian tram conductor; and Winston and Clementine Churchill's long correspondence blends patriotism, ambition and shared tenacity. They stand in marked contrast to the duke and duchess of Windsor's baby talk and self-pity. This smart, witty and lively account with excerpts of a not-yet-extinct literary genre will whet our appetites for published collections of letters—a selected bibliography is included—while motivating us to put pen to paper to rediscover a satisfying means of communication. (Nov. 10)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.


“Exhilarating. . . . Mallon knows why we are reading over his shoulder; we are in it for a glimpse of the great man in his pajamas, the great writer on a lark, his stylistic guard down, conjuring with the crumbs and lint, the burnt toast and sprained egos of everyday existence. . . . It is as if text and e-mail messages are of this world, a letter an attempt, however illusory, to transcend it. All of which adds tension and resonance to Mallon’s pages, already crackling with hesitations and vulnerabilities, obsessions and aspirations. . . . By any measure a charming, discursive delight. Yours Ever is nuanced, informed, full-blooded, a vigorous literary salute.” —The New York Times Book Review

“Vibrant. . . . Yours Ever is not just an appreciation of a moribund art, but a collection of often fascinating mini-biographies . . . Mallon is an ideal guide on this whirlwind tour. . . .  Puts the belle back in belles-lettres.” —Los Angeles Times

“The best that the epistolary genre has to offer. . . . A letter of introduction to the joys of letter writing.” —The Wall Street Journal
“Mallon explicates and comments with wry humor, a daunting intellect and an impeccable prose style. . . . Everything is all here, the ridiculous and the sublime.” —The Miami Herald

“Enjoyably treats a chattier matter: why we write—recklessly, passionately, self-revealingly—to anyone at all. . . . Readers, whether history buffs or not, should find this book pleasingly ripe with insights into the bittersweet rewards of revealing oneself to the perfect listener.” —Minneapolis Star-Tribune
“Mallon not only finds wonderful letters such as F. Scott Fitzgerald’s advice to his daughter, he also possesses such marvelous interpretive powers that a reader . . . might feel that each chapter is a letter intended for himself.” —Chicago Tribune
“With commentary so insightful and language so finely wrought that I suspect any one of the letter writers within would be delighted to make [Mallon’s] acquaintance by post . . . [Yours Ever] is, quite simply, the kind of book that makes you want to be a better reader.” —The Austin Chronicle
“Mallon . . . burrows shrewdly and to rewarding effect. Furthermore he can be a memorably witty commentator.” —The Boston Globe
“Fascinating. . . . Engrossing. . . . Each reader will certainly make up a bouquet of favorite quotes from these letters.” —
“[Mallon is] a master of the ‘brief life’ . . . fashioning deft sketches of the correspondents.  The result is his own delightfully idiosyncratic dictionary of literary biography.” —Slate
“Fluid, discursive, aphoristic . . . Mallon’s erudition (which he wears lightly) and his curiosity (which he shares generously) have sent him diving into words left behind by royalists and revolutionaries, murderers and lovers, Ann Landers and Ayn Rand. . . . Engaging.” —Fortune
Yours Ever is a revelatory collection of the nutty and the noble encased in private correspondence.” —Maureen Corrigan, “Fresh Air,” NPR
“This endlessly delightful book . . . makes reading other people’s mail as much fun as we always suspected it would be.” —National Review
“An amiable, very readable collection of brief essays about dozens of correspondents. . . . Entertaining.” —
“Smart and enchanting. . . . Yours Ever is far, far better than a disjointed compendium of great American letters. . . . It is, rather, a well-fed meditation on the humanity that descends to us from history in the form of letters. . . .Mallon takes those we think we recognized and presents them from a fresh perspective.” —The Advocate (Baton Rouge, Louisiana)


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage (December 7, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 030747741X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307477415
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.8 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.9 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,726,308 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
In YOURS EVER, Thomas Mallon resumes his odd yet engaging habit of puttering about on the fringes of the literary life and, in the process, churning out a good many fascinating tidbits. In previous works, he explored diary writing and plagiarism. Here, he gives his readers a quick tour of letter writers past and present, young and old, famous and obscure, longwinded and epigrammatic. Every reader will have his own list of favorites cited --- and also a list of sorely-missed absentees.

The book is not chronological --- in fact, one of its somewhat annoying features is the need for the reader to leapfrog back and forth through history. We go without a break from Sacco and Vanzetti to Sir Walter Raleigh, from Richard Nixon to Florence Nightingale, and from Harold Ross to Abelard. The time-travelling reader gets a bit jet-lagged, though the trip itself is often engrossing. This is due to the way Mallon has chosen to organize his book. YOURS EVER is structured around nine broad motifs of absence, friendship, advice, complaint, love, spirit, confession, war and prison. I lost count of how many letter writers he covers, but they surely would populate a small town. His book is enjoyable reading, but as its parade of writers passes by, it begins to seem like the literary equivalent of speed dating.

Some of these writers are treated more fully than others. Charles Dickens, one of the great literary letter writers, gets only a couple of pages while the rather boring and persnickety correspondence between Sigmund Freud and Alfred Jung goes on a great length.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By S. McGee TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on December 6, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Spotting this volume on a bookstore shelf, I grabbed it and headed straight to the cash register. I began devouring it on the way home, and relinquished it on the final page only with a sigh of regret...

Mallon's companion volume to this fascinating review of the art of letter-writing is an equally-compelling look at diarists and their prose, A Book of One's Own: People and Their Diaries. I bought that in hardcover -- one of the earliest non-fiction books I purchased in hardcover, back in the days when I first started working and could afford to buy my own books rather than simply borrow them from the library -- and has never moved from its spot on the "easily accessible because I will want to pull it down and consult it a lot" shelf in the 25 years or so that have elapsed. Now this book, an insight into how a host of very different personalities (imagine Chinese dissident Wei Jingsheng and Romantic poet John Keats cohabiting, alongside the correspondence between Gustave Flaubert and George Sand, and that between Hannah Arendt and Mary McCarthy!) will join it there, because the greatest pleasure of a book of this kind is really only revealed over the years, as I dip into it for a some perspective (Noel Coward's letter to Marlene Dietrich to stop mooning over Yul Brynner, who "only really says tender things to you when he's drunk"), inspiration (the intellectual clarity of Wei Jingsheng in the face of his imprisonment and torture) and insight into some part of the human condition.

One of the joys of this collection is that while the usual suspects are here (from Abelard and Heloise and the Pastons to Winston Churchill, via Dickens, Faulkner, etc. etc.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Kate on January 30, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I purchased YOURS EVER because I love writing letters . . . long letters. I hadn't read any of Mallon's previous books, so didn't know quite what to expect, but I thought it would have full-length letters plus commentary by Mallon. I was wrong. It's all commentary with brief quotations. At first that was a disappointment, but as I read along, I thought maybe it was a good approach. There are, of course, some letter writers I'm not interested in. But I loved Teddy Roosevelt, Thomas Jefferson, H.L. Mencken, Philip Larkin, and a number of others. Enough to like the book.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Tracey Carter VINE VOICE on January 15, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Yours Ever was not the book I expected it to be. I thought it would be a collection of letters from a variety of people and characters throughout history along with brief asides, historical commentary, and the like by Thomas Mallon. Instead Yours Ever is organized in thematic chapters on nine broad topics like Friendship, Advice, and War. Also, it does not include full reprints of letters, but instead utilizes block quotes interspersed with historical information and commentary about the function of letters in that particular period or setting.

While it was not what I expected it to be at all, it is still a lovely read. The thematic organiztion works well as Mallon is able to combine a variety of historical people and settings within one chapter, and it is marvelous to see the similarities and differences between two nineteenth century African-American women writing to one another and two wealthy American and European women writing to each other in the twentieth century.

Yours Ever is lengthy and full of details without being long-winded. I found myself rereading certain quotes and passages from letters that were especially memorable. Mallon's historical details are also spot on. They provide enough context to gain a greater understanding of the letters and their writers without being distracting from the subject of letter writing.

While I very much enjoyed reading this book I'm glad I borrowed it from the library instead of purchasing it; I'm not sure that it has a high reread value. However, if I were still enrolled in grad school the reread and research potential would be greatly increased and it would then be a book worth purchasing.

Also, the extensive bibliography is great if you are looking for further reading on this subject.
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