Nov 29, 2009

The Sunday Salon - Life, Work, Letters & Everything

The Sunday Old Letters

Hello Sunday Saloners. Today I'm going to refrain from apologizing for not having been around more lately. First because you've heard it all before, and secondly because I know everyone has busy lives as well, and that nobody is paying as much attention to the amount of blogging and commenting I do as I am myself.

Still, I'm sad that I haven't been able to read very much at all lately. Part of the reason is the pre-holiday business: writing and posting greeting cards, doing a bit of crafting, ordering gifts, preparing packages for friends and family who live abroad, etc. But there's also the fact that I'm still adjusting to working full-time. It's funny - last year I was studying and working part-time, so in theory I should have had less free time than I do now. But the fact is that I managed to read a lot more. Maybe it was because my schedule was a lot more flexible, and also because I'd sometimes get unexpected bits of reading time. It would happen when, for example, I finished an essay earlier than I had anticipated, or one of my lectures was cancelled. I remember that this happened when I was reading Fingersmith, and suddenly I had two hours to read to my heart's content. I swear, it was just like Christmas.

But despite the difficult adjustment, I'm very much enjoying my new job. I've talked about it a bit on Twitter, but I haven't here, I don't think. I'm working at the archives of a museum, cataloguing the correspondence (about five decades' worth of it) of a writer who passed away some years ago. I have to create an xml entry for each letter, and this entry includes a summary of the content. So I do have to read them all. But I'm very glad that I do, because the work would be a lot more repetitive and less interesting otherwise. It's the human side, the patterns, the narratives, the voices that emerge that make it interesting.

I like the fact that I already have a few favourite correspondents, whose voices I love and whose letters I look forward to. I like guessing at what the relationship between the recipient and the sender was. I even like the fact that, because we don't have the letters the writer herself sent, I only get half of the conversation and have to imagine the rest. It almost makes me want to write an epistolary novel where I could imagine the answers to all the questions I'm left with.

Speaking of which, do you have a favourite epistolary novel you'd recommend? There's 84 Charing Cross Road (not actually a novel, but it counts), of course, and I know of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. But I bet there are plenty of excellent ones I haven't even heard of. If you have a favourite book of actual letters, than I'd love to hear about it as well.

The fact that my reading has slowed down so much means I won't have as many books to post about, and so I'll probably be an intermittent blogger at best between now and Christmas. But I'll still be around as much as possible. Have a great Sunday, everyone!


  1. What an interesting job! You'll adjust and get back into the swing of things, but it probably won't be until after the holidays. We'll be here when you do.

  2. The book that made me a fan of epistolary novels is Ella Minnow Pea by Mark Dunn. It's terribly clever, and I highly recommend it, especially to word nerds. :)

  3. I'm so thrilled for you that you're enjoying your job so much! There's nothing worse than a job you hate, where you have to go there for eight or more hours a day, and detest every second of it. So it's wonderful that is not the case for you, Nymeth!

    You know what, when I was in college and working 20-30 hours a week, I had more free time than I have now too - or at least, it felt that way. I agree about the schedule thing... now it's like I have to be in bed early every night, there's the drive to and from work, and before I had more little bits of extra time I could do with as I please. It feels now like things are more scheduled and that leaves less time for fun things.

    The Perks of Being a Wallflower is sort of an epistolary novel, I suppose. He's writing to a friend, but I think it's really more like a diary format. Either way, it's a wonderful book which I loved.

  4. Glad the job is going well, it sounds so interesting.

    The only epistolary book I've read is 84 Charing Cross Rd (which I loved) so I may have to come back and check the other recommendations :)

  5. Sounds like an absolutely fascinating job! I love getting glimpses of other peoples lives (I'm probably to nosey for my own good :D) but this sounds perfect!

    And you are right, students to have more wiggle room with their time. I've realised that this term when I try to juggle placement, school and free time. Lots less wiggle room now, but still more than others.

  6. That is rather interesting to look and read back in history.

  7. Oooh! Sorcery and Cecelia by Patricia C. Wrede and Caroline Stevermer would be perfect for you. It was actually written as a letter game between the two authors, with each one taking the point of view of a character, and not talking to each other about the plot etc. except via their in-character letters. It's an Austen-esque comedy of manners, except there's magic - kind of like Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell except younger and funnier.

    The Egyptologist by Arthur Phillips is also epistolary - well, about half epistolary and half diary entries - and was kind of bizarre but really intriguing and well-done. Sections of The Monsters of Templeton are epistolary as well, although it's a smaller percentage - most of the book is regular narrative.

  8. I'm glad the job is working out so well, even if it means less free time. You're right - I don't think anyone's noticing you being around less! Particularly because EVERYONE'S been around less in November and probably will be in December, too.

    As for epistolary novels, my favorite is Ella Minnow Pea. It was so good!

  9. That sounds like a wonderful job and one you would be great at; you have a beautiful way of summarizing the novels you read.

    I've heard wonderful things about Mark Dunn's Ella Minnow Pea, but I've not read it yet.

  10. That sounds like such a wonderful job (well, at times)! I always feel sad in this electronic age, we don't have letters. I think they'd be really nice to hold on to and then see later in life. Or to pass on to people. And how fun to only have half of them!

    One book that is not FULLY epistolary, but kind of, is Possession by A.S. Byatt. Not sure if I can recommend any others at the moment...

  11. Your job sounds so cool! I'm completely envious - I love love love reading other people's letters.

    I second the recommendations for Sorcery and Cecelia & Ella Minnow Pea. There are also two books by an author called Jean Webster that are a perfect delight, Daddy-Long-Legs and Dear Enemy. In Daddy-Long-Legs, a rich man pays for an orphan girl (Judy) to attend college, with the stipulation that she write to him and keep him updated on her education. It was written ages ago, 1912 or something, and it's still so fresh and charming. And then Dear Enemy, the sequel, focuses on Judy's best friend. They are just wonderful.

    Also, I know I've said this before, but I will say it again - the letters of Elizabeth Barrett and Robert Browning are easily fascinating enough to be a novel themselves.

  12. Kathy: I think you're right - probably not until then.

    Hannah: I actually have that book! I mooched it back in the summer. Now I just need to read it :P

    Heather: The flexibility really makes a world of difference. And Perks is awesome! I read it last year and loved it to bits :)

    Bella: Some bits are more interesting than others - it really depends on the documents I'm working on :P But overall I like it, and I feel blessed to have a job at all!

    Zee: I love the glimpses as well :D Especially when it's stuff from the past. Sorry to hear you've been having trouble with time management as well!

    Esme: It is, yes!

    Fyrefly: Oooh, I'd actually heard of Sourcery and Cecilia, but I had completely forgotten about it. Thanks for the reminder! It really sounds right up my alley.

    Amanda: lol, very true. And Ella Minnow Pea sounds like something I'd love. I need to read it!

    Trisha: Aww, thank you! I do my best :P

    Aarti: well, your recommendation is actually spot on - Possession is one of my all-time favourite books :D And so true about makes me sad that they're disappearing, even if I'm horrible at keeping penpals myself :P

  13. Jenny, I KNEW you'd have great recommendations :D I haven't heard of Jean Webster, and the books do sound completely charming.

  14. I agree with Jenny, Daddy Long-Legs is great, and available on And I loved Ella Minnow Pea as well.

    Clara Callen was a wonderful epistolary novel, won the Giller as well. Two sisters writing back and forth during the depression.

    I read epistolary novels for the Themed Reading Challenge last year. This link will take you to all of my reviews.

    There are YA books, a couple by Jaclyn Moriarty, and Last Days of Summer is a sweet book set during WW2.
    On librarything, check the tags for epistolary or diary entries. You might find some new books.

  15. The job sounds fantastic! The Colour Purple is a good one to read, and of course Frankenstein

  16. It makes me so very happy that you enjoy your job so much! :D And I can really see why...I'm sure there are bound to be "not so exciting" parts, but overall, it just sounds so fascinating.

  17. Your job sounds great! I heard Ella Minnow Pea is a great one. I think Sunflowers by Sheramy Bundrick is told in letters also.

  18. My reading has slowed down, too... It's sad!

  19. What a wonderful job you have found. I love going through the books and journal my mother had stored at her house. The job sounds like great fun.

    As for epistolary novels I think of The Color Purple, and in other styles The Fox Woman and The Selected Works of T.S.Spivet.

    Have a great week!

  20. I am glad the new job is going well and that you are enjoying it. Sounds very interesting, I hope it continues to be so. This is such a busy time of year and it is so normal for all of us to hit periods where we it is a major accomplishment if we can keep up with our own blogs, let alone trying to keep up with everyone else. Would that life would have more time for the things we enjoy, but I guess there is no reason to complain. In this economy it is a good thing to be busy with work!

  21. I'm so jealous of your job! I'd LOVE to do something like that, but alas I'm stuck with other work.

    I love epistolary novels, but do you think I can remember any besides the ones you mentioned? Oh! It's not exactly an epistolary novel, but Sandra Gulland's THE MANY LIVES & SECRET SORROWS OF JOSEPHINE B. works along the same lines. It's a fictionalized journal, and each little piece builds upon everything that's come before in the most gorgeous way possible.

  22. I'm so glad to hear your job is going well. It does sound like great fun!

    One of my favorite epistolary novels is Dangerous Liaisons by Pierre Choderlos de Laclos. I'm not sure it would be your kind of thing, but I loved it. Lots of sexual intrigue and manipulation. And of course, you know about the awesomeness of Wilkie Collins, and much of Armadale is written as letters and diary entries.

  23. In my dreams, that's the job I have. lol! I'd love to do that.

    An epistolary novel I've read is Letters to Alice on First Reading Jane Austen (it's about writing).

    I'm feeling the neglect of my blog lately too. I have a lot of Christmas preparations to do.

  24. Working full time does rather derail reading plans, but it sounds like you've got a fantastic project to be getting on with and there are always lunch breaks, fire drills, sick days ;)

  25. That is just the nature of this time of year. Stress, not enough time to do everything...we understand. I love the sound of your new job. It would be pretty easy to get lost in such a task - in a good way.

  26. Your job sounds so fun and something new everyday!!

  27. Please, I just about fell off the face of the earth for a while there. I totally understand. I love the sound of your job, but most of all that you seem to enjoy it. That's even better. :)

  28. Your job sounds great and interesting!

    Speaking of reading, I didn't read too much lately due to posting greeting cards and...hmm...being addicted to mangas, LOL.

    Hope you've a great week ahead, Nymeth!

  29. What an interesting job you have, Ana! Have fun!

  30. That sounds like a great job!

    There are tons of epistolary novels from the 19th century--Dracula, Dangerous Liaisons, both of which you've probably already read. I'm not a fan, so I can't think of much more than that. There was a book made of letters of a real woman that I read once, but I don't remember the title.

  31. I totally hear you on the trying to find a balance between everything. Eventually it will come...and it probably won't be the same as before, but you'll fall into a routine that will work for you!

    You know this already, but I absolutely love your job! I just find it fascinating :) And if you ever do decided to write that novel, I'll be first in line to buy it :)

  32. Your job sounds amazing. I hope you continue to enjoy it.

    No need to apologize for not being around--especially this time of year. We all have different commitments. RELAX

  33. An excellent epistolary novel is Lee Smith's Fair and Tender Ladies. The letters are all sent out to various people by the main character, a scrappy Appalachian girl named Ivy Rowe. The letters take the readers from Ivy's girlhood to old age and it's an amazing read.

  34. I am glad your job is working out well, Nymeth. Your job sound so interesting! I know first hand how difficult juggling a full-time job and life outside of work can be, so I empathize. It's a constant juggling act. I hope things will settle down for you soon.

    Take care, Nymeth. Have a good week.

  35. Oooh, that sounds like an interestinga nd fun, job! (And who knows, maybe you'll find yourself writing a novel on them after all. ^-~ Or a non-fiction book... You never know...)

    *huggles* I'm glad to hear you seem to have a fun job, Nymeth! Even if it eats into the reading schedule you're used to.

  36. Your job sounds absolutely wonderful! I am quite jealous. ;) I'm glad you've found something you enjoy to do, in any case. I don't have any epistolary novel recommendations for you, but I'm looking forward to seeing you read them and hope I can discover some that way!

  37. I'd love to have your job. :D I hope to find something I like to do after graduation, which is next year August.

  38. raidergirl3: Thank you for all the fantastic recommendations!

    Katrina: I loved both! I could always re-read them :P

    Debi: Yep, like the box with a decade worth of Christmas cards that I spent almost two weeks on :P

    Vasilly: I need to read Ella Minnow Pea soon!

    Kailana: But you've still read about twice as many books as I did this year :P

    Gavin: I haven't read T.S. Spivet yet, but I've heard good things!

    Kathleen: It's pretty interesting!

    Carl: It is indeed! I feel very blessed to have found a job so quickly.

    Memory: Ooh, that sounds like a book I'd love!

    Teresa: Armadale too? I SO need to read that and No Name!

    Chris: I guess everyone blogs less in November and December. I'll look for Letters to Alice on First Reading Jane Austen - I love books about writing!

    Jodie: lol, very true ;)

  39. Sandy: It is easy! And I'm very grateful that it's not a job that leaves me staring at the clock, willing the time to pass.

    Staci: Some parts get a bit samey, but I love opening a new box and having no idea what I'll find.

    Wisteria: I noticed and I missed you!

    Melody: SPEAKING OF WHICH! Let me e-mail you :D

    Alice: I will :D

    Heidenkind: I've read Dracula, but not Dangerous Liaisons!

    Chris: Yeah, it definitely won't be the same...but hopefully I will find a new balance. I don't think that epistolary novel will ever exist outside of my imagination, though - sorry :P

    Diane: That is some excellent advice :P

    Christy, thank you for the recommendation!

    Wendy: Thank you! I just need to find a new routine - one that allows me work, read, blog and remain sane :P

    Shanra: You never know indeed, but I don't see it happening :P Anyway, thank you :D A Shanra hug always brightens my day :D

    Meghan: I'll start with Ella Minnow Pea since so many people recommended it :D

    Josette: Good luck! I hope you find something awesome.

  40. I still look back at college and wonder how I managed to have so much free time. Adulthood (and jobhood) seems to bring with it more chores.

  41. Your work sounds very interesting and I'm sure it's the perfect job for someone who is such a bookworm! Don't worry about not being online as much, we all have times where it's just not possible to get to everything. I hope you do get some time to do some of the things you want to do soon!

  42. What a lovely job! So glad it's so interesting (hopefully -- I know museum work can be tedious). I just finished Fingersmith -- gave myself yesterday to finish it -- it was amazing. So I totally know what you mean about a couple extra reading hours being like Christmas!

  43. I love the sound of your job. you could write a story about it, it reminds me of the premises for Possession! (although I haven't read it yet!).
    but then again I'm hating my job, so anything else that sound even a bit interesting wins hands down!

  44. Jill: Sigh - booo to adulthood.

    Zibilee: Thank you so much - I'll TRY not to worry :P

    Daphne: There are some less than thrilling bits, but overall, I'm really happy. I feel blessed to both have found something so quickly and to have found something that suits me so well.

    She: It is :D

    Valentina: Aw, sorry work isn't going well for you! I used to think working at a bookstore would be uninterrupted joy until I actually worked in one :P So I know it's not always as fun as it sounds.

  45. jason recently reviewed Gaskell's letters for the classics circuit if you wanted the real real thing...


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