the art of letter writing

In the old days before email people seemed to put a lot more effort into their letter writing. Here are three great examples:

Harold Pinter

In his early play The Birthday Party, two mysterious men terrorize a third named Stanley as he cowers in a tawdry English rooming house. In post-absurdist fashion, Pinter denies his audience virtually all clarification of his characters’ histories prompting one frustrated viewer to write:

image found here

“I would be obliged if you would kindly explain to me the meaning of your play. These are the points which I do not understand: 1. Who are the two men? 2. Where did Stanley come from? 3. Were they all supposed to be normal? You will appreciate that without the answers to my questions, I cannot fully understand your play.”

my favourite birthday party boy found here

Pinter replied: “Dear Madam: I would be obliged if you would kindly explain to me the meaning of your letter. These are the points which I do not understand: 1. Who are you? 2. Where do you come from? 3. Are you supposed to be normal? You will understand that without the answers to my questions, I cannot fully understand your letter.”

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Harry S Truman

To Paul Hume, music critic who wrote a disparaging review of Truman’s daughter’s singing performance:

Mr Hume:

I’ve just read your lousy review of Margaret’s concert. I’ve come to the conclusion that you are an “eight ulcer man on four ulcer pay.”

Harry S Truman found here

It seems to me that you are a frustrated old man who wishes he could have been successful. When you write such poppy-cock as was in the back section of the paper you work for it shows conclusively that you’re off the beam and at least four of your ulcers are at work.

Some day I hope to meet you. When that happens you’ll need a new nose, a lot of beefsteak for black eyes, and perhaps a supporter below!


Groucho Marx

To Jerry Wald, producer of Peyton Place

Dear Jerry:

I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed “Peyton Place.” As a matter of fact, I CAN tell you. I enjoyed it very much.

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In addition to enjoying the picture, it seemed that the whole evening had been planned by a master hand. My De Soto was whisked away from the front of the theatre so swiftly that I arrived at Romanoff’s in a Buick. There I rapidly got drunk, danced with Audrey Hepburn, looked down (and up) Jayne Mansfield’s knockers, had a fine lobster dinner and spent a good half hour rubbing someone’s legs under the table …. which, on investigation, turned out to be my wife’s.

Jayne Mansfield found here

It was a bang-up evening …. and that’s how I wound up.

Regards, Groucho