Dear AskMeFi . . .
December 19, 2010 4:39 PM   Subscribe

I'm looking for fiction that's written in the form of letters and other forms of correspondence.

I'm looking for FICTION that is written entirely in the format of letters, memos, emails, or other types of correspondance. Books I've enjoyed include A Woman of Independent Means by Elizabeth Forsythe Hailey, Thursdays 'Til Nine by Jane Trahey, and White Lies by Jonellen Heckler. Any other suggestions? Please note that I'm looking for FICTION, not collections of "real" letters from real people.
posted by bookmammal to Writing & Language (59 answers total) 35 users marked this as a favorite
 
This may prove helpful:

Wikipedia's entry on the epistolary novel.
posted by Merzbau at 4:42 PM on December 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


The Griffin & Sabine trilogy by Nick Bantock? All the letters are in envelopes pasted into the books so you actually have to pull them out and read them... like going through someone's mail. Pretty slight story-wise though.
posted by flex at 4:43 PM on December 19, 2010 [3 favorites]


The Griffin and Sabine books by Nick Bantock are simply amazing, in so many ways.
posted by finding.perdita at 4:46 PM on December 19, 2010


Dracula, by Bram Stoker
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 4:47 PM on December 19, 2010 [3 favorites]


The Screwtape Letters by C. S. Lewis. One of my favorites.
posted by brownrd at 4:51 PM on December 19, 2010 [4 favorites]


The Jolly Postman is a kid's book that's half letters to story book characters.
posted by Phalene at 4:56 PM on December 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, Clarissa by Samuel Richardson (though I didn't like it), and Bridget Jones's Diary (though you may or may not include this given it's journal style).
posted by questionsandanchors at 4:57 PM on December 19, 2010


Les Liaisons Dangereuses, de Laclos

Freedom & Necessity, Steven Brust & Emma Bull.

I loved both of these very much, and they're both epistolary.
posted by hought20 at 4:58 PM on December 19, 2010


Wanderlust by Chris Dyer is written this way. It's supposed to be a romantic comedy of sorts, but I personally couldn't stand it and the writing style was part of the reason, but you might like it.
posted by soelo at 5:00 PM on December 19, 2010


Dear Mr Henshaw, by Beverly Cleary, and the ttyl series, by Lauren Myracle, if kids' books are OK

Lady Susan, by Jane Austen
posted by collectallfour at 5:05 PM on December 19, 2010


Ella Minnow Pea. Also the benefit of some really cool linguistic gyrations that get progressively more intense as the story goes on.
posted by Gorgik at 5:08 PM on December 19, 2010 [4 favorites]


Several of the short stories in David Sedaris's first collection, Barrel Fever, are framed as letters/newsletters. ("Seasons Greetings to Our Friends and Family!!!" is my favorite of the bunch.)
posted by scody at 5:09 PM on December 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


In French, there is Les Lettres de Martha, by Marie Laberge. Readers receive letters by mail, at their home, twice a month, since January 2009
posted by ddaavviidd at 5:11 PM on December 19, 2010


Oh, and I strongly second Les Liaisons Dangeureuses. (There are a few different translations; I prefer the one by P.W.K. Stone.)
posted by scody at 5:12 PM on December 19, 2010


In addition to the entry on epistolary novels referenced above, Wikipedia also has a useful list of contemporary epistolary novels.
posted by (The Rt Hon.) MP at 5:13 PM on December 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


I really liked Sorcery and Cecelia (and the sequels) by Patricia Wrede and Caroline Stevermer. It's on Wikipedia's contemporary list.
posted by anaelith at 5:27 PM on December 19, 2010


I don't know how to lump this all together, except perhaps as stories with happy endings.

Sam's Letters to Jennifer --> if you like this, you might also like Suzanne's Diary for Nicholas

Every Boy's Got One
Boy Meets Girl
The Boy Next Door

The last three books are by Meg Cabot. She's got another in the same vein, but I'm not linking to that one because it's awful.
posted by onegoodthing at 5:30 PM on December 19, 2010


Oooh... There's also a Project Gutenberg tag. For example, Operation R.S.V.P. is short and humorous (and I love H. Beam Piper).
posted by anaelith at 5:31 PM on December 19, 2010


Pamela by Samuel Richardson.
posted by drobot at 5:33 PM on December 19, 2010


Girls of Riyadh
posted by sabh at 5:43 PM on December 19, 2010


I liked the new Gary Shteyngart, Super Sad True Love Story, which is bounces back and forth between diary entries and emails/online chatting. Tao Lin's new book also has chunks done up in gchat... Also from this year, Jennifer Egan's Welcome to the Goon Squad is notable for including an entire chapter done in a PowerPoint presentation, which is way more affecting than I thought it'd be (in fact, it might be the best part of the book...).
posted by jng at 5:44 PM on December 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


Swan Thieves is partially a series of letters.
posted by lvanshima at 5:46 PM on December 19, 2010


Old but interesting Daddy Longlegs
posted by MsKim at 5:54 PM on December 19, 2010 [2 favorites]


John Barth's Letters consists of fictional letters written by the fictional characters who populated his previous novels.
posted by yclipse at 6:11 PM on December 19, 2010


The Perks of Being A Wallflower is written in letters from a teenage boy to an unnamed recipient.
posted by willpie at 6:12 PM on December 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


C.S. Lewis's The Screwtape Letters is about a demon trying to tempt a man's soul.

World War Z is more oral history than letters but: zombies!
posted by davextreme at 6:27 PM on December 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


Mark Z. Danielewski's novella The Whalestoe Letters is a pretty gripping read couched entirely in letters from a woman confined in a mental institution. This collection of letters fleshes out one of the major threads in his freakishly awesome novel House of Leaves, which has a lot of epistolary material of its own.
posted by mindsound at 6:33 PM on December 19, 2010 [2 favorites]


Computers Don't Argue (entire text) by Gordon R. Dickson.
posted by drdanger at 6:49 PM on December 19, 2010


Poor Folk by Fyodor Dostoevsky.
posted by Idle Curiosity at 7:00 PM on December 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


Letters of Insurgents fits this description, and is absolutely incredible.
posted by streetdreams at 7:16 PM on December 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


Seconding Ella Minnow Pea, and adding The Expedition of Humphry Clinker, which is a hoot.
posted by bakerina at 7:33 PM on December 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


"e", by Matthew Beaumont (written as all emails). Hilarious book about an ad agency in the UK.

"Go Ask Alice" is written in diary format.
posted by sundrop at 7:42 PM on December 19, 2010


Letters from the Inside is a fantastic, if dark, Australian YA novel that definitely showcases the power of this format.
posted by punchdrunkhistory at 7:57 PM on December 19, 2010 [2 favorites]


The Sorcery and Cecelia series, by Patricia C. Wrede and Caroline Stevermer.

Love, Mary by Mary Gwynn.
posted by gudrun at 8:01 PM on December 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


Sea Escape, by Lynne Griffin
posted by arveale at 8:26 PM on December 19, 2010


Everything is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer is partially epistolary.
posted by magnificent frigatebird at 8:40 PM on December 19, 2010


The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga is a great book in this format. It won the Booker prize.
posted by msk1985 at 9:03 PM on December 19, 2010


archy and mehitabel is an older work in this vein.
posted by pmb at 9:05 PM on December 19, 2010


Carol Shields and Blanche Howard co-wrote A Celibate Season, which I enjoyed tremendously.
posted by bardophile at 9:06 PM on December 19, 2010


One of my all-time favorite books, We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver.
posted by eugenen at 9:10 PM on December 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


Up The Down Staircase. Great book. Bel Kaufman lets her characters speak for themselves through memos, letters, directives from the principal, comments by students, notes between teachers, and papers from desk drawers and wastebaskets.
posted by Fuzzy Monster at 9:16 PM on December 19, 2010


84, Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff.
posted by Iris Gambol at 9:19 PM on December 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


Sorry, nix that post.
posted by Iris Gambol at 9:20 PM on December 19, 2010


some sections in David Mitchell's Cloud Atlas are written as letters, others as interview transcripts, and then a bit of straight-up story telling. it's an odd and thrilling book, you should check it out!
posted by elephantsvanish at 9:30 PM on December 19, 2010 [3 favorites]


We Need to Talk About Kevin is one of the best books I've ever read. It is about a woman whose son commits a school massacre, and is written in the form of letters to her estranged husband. It actually really feels *real*.
posted by radioamy at 9:41 PM on December 19, 2010 [2 favorites]


Mark Twain'S bible
"Letters from the Earth is written by Satan, who is on earth, and the letters are addressed to his fellow archangels Michael and Gabriel, who are back in God’s general vicinity."
posted by hortense at 9:51 PM on December 19, 2010


Paula Danziger and Ann M. Martin's YA P.S. Longer Letter Later and Snail Mail, No More
posted by brujita at 10:20 PM on December 19, 2010


Christopher Priest's The Prestige is made up of the main characters' diaries.
posted by kirkaracha at 10:25 PM on December 19, 2010


Home Land by Sam Lipsyte is a series of (unanswered) letters to his high school alumni newsletter.
posted by knile at 11:35 PM on December 19, 2010 [2 favorites]


Donald Barthelme's "The Sandman" is a short story that's also a letter. It's terrific. You can read it in full on Google Books.
posted by HerArchitectLover at 3:21 AM on December 20, 2010


... and I second Home Land!
posted by HerArchitectLover at 3:23 AM on December 20, 2010


A few I've enjoyed that don't seem to have been mentioned yet: Iain Pears, An Instance of the Fingerpost; Gene Wolfe, The Sorceror's House; Michael Cox, The Meaning of Night. One that's been on my to-read list for a long time: 84 Charing Cross Road.
posted by taz at 4:56 AM on December 20, 2010


Fair and Tender Ladies by Lee Smith is made up entirely of letters sent by the protagonists to various recipients. It's an amazing, beautiful book.
posted by litnerd at 5:48 AM on December 20, 2010


Chris Cleve's Incendiary is a single letter (novel-length) from an enraged mother to Osama bin Laden.
posted by dobbs at 10:37 AM on December 20, 2010


Gilead is essentially one long letter from the narrator to his child.
posted by zizzle at 11:09 AM on December 20, 2010


seconding 84 charing cross road. It's a very quick read. and of course there's a great movie version of it that's pretty true to the book.
posted by yggdrasil at 11:15 AM on December 20, 2010


Evelin Sullivan, The Correspondence.
posted by jayder at 12:03 PM on December 20, 2010


Response by poster: WOW! Thanks everybody--I now have a huge list to take to the library/bookstore. It looks like my holiday time off from work will be spent reading many wonderful books!
posted by bookmammal at 3:00 PM on December 20, 2010


There's The Key, the English translation of the Japanese novel Kagi, written by Jun'ichiro Tanizaki. It's structured as two parallel diaries of a husband and wife.
posted by DoctorFedora at 9:31 PM on December 20, 2010


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