Magazine Review: The Letters Page

The Letters Page is a new magazine based out of the UK, consisting entirely of letters. The Letters Page is not strictly made up of speculative fiction — some letters are nonfiction, some realistic fiction, and only a couple in the issue I read, Issue Two: Winter 2013, could be considered fantastical — but I decided to review it despite this, on account of how innovative an idea it is.

The cover page of Issue Two is adorned with lines so that, if you print it out, you can make an envelope out from it. The letters themselves are typed for the easiest reading experience, though the submissions call for each letter to be hand-written, and indeed an image of the hand-written first lines follow each letter. When the magazine contacted me to request that I review their issue, they highlighted the fact that submissions are now open for their Summerhouse Issue (they are a paying market, and submissions info can be found here), which may interest some of you.

I got the feeling reading this magazine that certain letters will speak much differently to other people, perhaps more so than in other magazines as the genre requirements for The Letters Page are so broad.

The experience of reading Issue Two brought to mind the recent Miranda July email experiment, in that, especially in the nonfiction letters, I felt as though I was reading thoughts I was never intended to read. One writer writes about her daughter’s leukemia in response to a letter from Issue One. In my favorite letter, Pete Segall writes to a now-deceased death-row inmate at the now-renamed Terrell Unit at the Texas Dept. of Criminal Justice. He has written to the man before, years ago, for reasons he can only now chalk up to the naivety of youth, and he writes again from a place of more maturity in a poignant letter consisting of one long, drawn-out sentence that mimics his breathless train of thought, looking back on his brief correspondence with a man marked for death. Each letter is accompanied by editorial footnotes, and in this instance in particular the footnotes are as interesting as the story; the editor explains about the renaming of the facility, informing us that even the place to which Segall is writing no longer exists.

Issue Two also contains items such as a brief philosophical note by George Saunders; a science fictional letter from Ruby Cowling penned in a near-future, teenaged dialect where the hyper rambling eventually leads to a profound realization; Tod Wodicka’s time travel response to the same previously-responded-to letter from Issue One (this idea of response is one of the most interesting things about The Letters Page); and Suzanne Joinson’s amalgamated recreation of letters she and her friends in the Middle East have written over the years in an attempt to evade the censors during the Syrian Revolution.

Issues are available for free download, and a mailing list is available to keep readers updated when new issues are uploaded.

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