Books, Reading, Review
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Book Review – ‘Airmail: Women of Letters’

9780670078660Title: Airmail: Women of Letters
Author: Michaela McGuire & Marieke Hardy
Genre: Nonfiction
Release date: March 25, 2015
Rating: ★★★★★

Dear Airmail: Women of Letters,

I’m supposed to be reviewing you right now, but I couldn’t quite figure out the best way to describe you to the people who might read my review. So I decided to take the advice of writing teachers everywhere and to show my readers, not tell them, what you’re all about. So, dear Airmail, here is my letter to you in homage to those held within your pages (or in my case, within the Kindle app on my iPad).

I want to start by saying how much you made me laugh. And I don’t mean a little snicker here and there; I mean proper laughing out loud, including the occasional snort. This largely occurred on the train, and no doubt my fellow train passengers thought I was having some kind of attack. Especially when I was reading Laura Jean McKay’s letter to mortification, and how it’s like a lingering fart smell. Oh I laughed so hard when reading that couldn’t contain myself. I actually had to turn my iPad off for a few minutes to get myself under control. I’d like to take a brief moment here to apologise to the lady I was sitting next to at the time – I’m sure I kept knocking you with my arm in my attempts to stifle my laughter, but in my defence if you’d have been reading that letter, you would have been laughing too.

Anyway, along with the laughter there were some pretty solemn moments as well. There were no tears, but plenty of occasions on which you echoed my thoughts about how crazy messed up this world is sometimes. I think Emily Zoey Baker summed this up best for me when she was talking about the education of young people – and just the whole process of growing up in general. How they see all the most horrible things in life, then they learn about all the most beautiful things, and in all that learning they have to just keep going and do all that boring stuff kids have to do, and are given no outlet to express their feelings. I agree with her when she said we should all learn to write poetry to help with what I like to call “the feels”. I’ve only recently taken up poetry writing and wow does it feel good to get all that emotion out sometimes. So I really got it, you know?

It was cool to read you and see that some of my own feelings were also had by people who have actually done stuff with their lives. I was expecting a vast array of thoughts and feelings to spring out at my eyeballs – that’s what you’re all about. But do you know what I wasn’t expecting? I wasn’t expecting for you to make me do something which, by my fairly introverted standards, was pretty crazy. Do you want to hear about it? Of course you do!

As part of an assessment for uni, I have to interview a person. Face to face. A real life, breathing person. Which is basically the worst thing that could happen to me because I don’t really ‘do’ people. I’m not a complete hermit, but it’s safe to say I’ll probably die surrounded by dust and cats. Anyway, I’ve been freaking out about it and thought I had someone to interview but it was going nowhere which was making me freak out even more. Then, out of nowhere, the perfect person for me to interview appeared. And as fate would have it, he was a complete stranger which meant I would never interview him because I knew myself, and approaching a complete stranger about something like this it’s completely against my character. And then I read Tim Minchin’s letter, right after The Perfect Interview Person appeared before me. It was like you’d sent Tim Minchin to me right when I needed him – like when Neville Longbottom pulled the sword of Godric Gryffindor out of the Sorting Hat in the final ‘Harry Potter’. Except Tim Minchin’s arrival brought with it profanity rather than the destruction of a Horcrux.

I related not just to Mr Minchin’s love of the eff word, which I firmly believe is good in any context (although I don’t use it quite as much as he does), but also his habit of doing things at the last minute, and his assertion that “it gets harder to write good things as time goes by, because so much stuff has already been made”. What does this have to do with me being a wimp and not talking to a stranger? I’m glad you asked! This letter made me think, What if the thing I write from this interview, somehow becomes the one and only good thing I get to write before anyone else? And what if I don’t do this interview and the writing that may have come from it becomes The Thing I Never Wrote But Wish I Had?

So the very next day, my body set itself to autopilot and steered itself to the workplace of The Perfect Interview Person (I hadn’t been stalking him, fyi – I was at his workplace when he appeared before me). There was a lot of muttering to myself as I walked down the street, mostly along the lines of, “Are you really going to do this? You’re an idiot. Turn around and go home”. But I kept going. And then I got to the location of the Workplace and as I made my way towards the escalators to make the ascent to my fate, I noticed the ones that would have to take me back down were blocked off for maintenance. It was a sign – the only way was forward, once at the top of the escalators I couldn’t come back down. It was a one way trip unless I wanted to wait ages for the lift. Which I didn’t at that moment because THE ONLY WAY WAS FORWARD.

I arrived at the Workplace, nervous as all hell and expecting to have to explain my purpose half a dozen times before I even got to the person I was there to talk to. But there was no one there. So I stood at the counter, feeling really pleased that I’d gone to the loo before I left work, because I was SUPER nervous. And then from behind the ‘Staff Only’ door, He appeared. The Perfect Interview Person. Long story short: I introduced myself, told him what I was there for, did my usual say something stupid to make the moment less awkward but instead make it more awkward, had a cringeworthy moment in which it felt like I was ripping through the fabric of space and time instead of a piece of paper from my notebook, and got a yes. Yes. He said yes to me interviewing him.

I sat down to speak with him on Thursday and it didn’t go as horrifyingly bad as I had anticipated. And it’s all because of you, Airmail, and the swearing Muse you contain (also maybe a little bit of panic that I wouldn’t get my assessment done). So thank you for getting me out of my comfort zone and doing something that I wouldn’t normally have done. Here’s to many more moments like it.

Yours with every fibre of my being,
Heather

Many thanks to Penguin Books Australia and NetGalley for providing a review copy in exchange for an honest review!

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7 Comments

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  4. I LOVE this story! Good on you for doing something out of the norm and, perhaps, overcoming a fear while doing so.

    This book sounds lovely. I saw you recommended it to me on GR a while back, and I’ll definitely be checking it out at some point. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Considering statements made about profanity in this letter, I do feel it’s appropriate to proclaim this fucking brilliant.

    A teacher I adored in a college writing class made us write her letters about her assignments and it’s some of the best “homework” I’ve ever done. Letter writing is a wonderful thing, as you’ve clearly experienced and demonstrated!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hahaha. Thanks! I really had no idea how to write any kind of review for this book – a letter to it seemed to be the only option.
      I do love letter writing – it’s so much more personal than the other ways we communicate these days.

      You should definitely give this book a read – Tim Minchin’s letter is the best, but they’re all pretty good really.

      Liked by 1 person

      • When a book affects you a certain way, I think it’s always cool to hear about the experiences involved. It’s like showing, instead of telling, in writing — but for reviews. 🙂

        And I’m definitely going to read this! Between your review and your teaser, I am quite intrigued!

        Like

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