Have you ever wanted to write a letter to one of your fictional friends? For example, one to Emma Bovary to give here some badly needed advice? Or to Nathan Zuckerman telling him to cool it? Or how about one to Michael Beard to tell him what a bastard he is? How often I’ve thought about writing to one of the characters in a book I’m reading.
Letters with Character is a blog where readers can post letters directed to their favorite or not-so-favorite characters. Readers are invited to submit letters (LettersWithCharacter@gmail.com) that are “funny, sad, digressive, trenchant, or trivial.” The site apparently receives far too many submissions to publish them all. The only requirement is that a real person write the letter to an unreal person in work of fiction.
Here are a few that have been recently accepted.
To Jay Gatsby in Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby
How's it going? What're you up to Saturday night? Wait, let me guess: A party. Again. With the same goddamn bores. Can I make a suggestion? Cancel the band. Turn off your lights. Lock your doors, for once. (Jesus, seriously. It's just not safe having people waltz in and out willy-nilly.) Instead, come over to my place. We'll watch a movie and kick back with a few beers. Have you seen (500) Days of Summer? What about Forgetting Sarah Marshall? Maybe we'll stay away from High Fidelity, but you've already seen that a thousand times, I know. Anyway, email me back or just drop on by. You're always welcome.
Your other neighbor,
To David Kepesh in Philip Roth’s The Dying Animal
Dear David Kepesh,
Of course you can still write to one of your literary friends without submitting it to Letters with Character.
Here’s one I recently drafted to Raimund Gregorious the central character in Pascal Mercier’s still memorable, still re-readable Night Train to Lisbon.
I understand they are going to make a movie of your life? Should I be impressed? Are you pleased? Do you know who will play your role? Perhaps it will be someone like Robert Redford? He’s about your age now.
Imagine a life of a language professor and linguistic scholar thoroughly fixed in his ways and pillar of his school in Switzerland who takes off on the spur of the moment one day for Lisbon after discovering a remarkable book by the Portuguese writer Amadeu de Prado. I have no idea how a movie can be made of this sojourn let alone the tale of the philosophical treatise that led you to abandon your settled days in Basel.
You wondered if the best way to make sure of yourself was to know and understand someone else? Did you find that to be the case as you learned more and more about Prado? Did his life and his relationships as they were unfolded to you in A Goldsmith of Words and the encounters they led you to give you a better understanding of yourself?
In reading your recent letters I’ve noticed you mostly ask questions. I don’t recall you ever answered them. I confess I found that “conversational style” rather fascinating. Where did you learn to write that way? Do you also converse in the same fashion?
In my experience, most people never ask questions. The person who does becomes an instant friend. I think we have in this linguistic style something very revealing about human behavior. But for the life of me I don’t quite know what it is yet. Do you?
Thanks for staying in touch. I look forward to your next set of questions.
Marks in the Margin