From naughty thoughts scribbled on an airplane barf bag to a Vietnam soldier’s emotional letter home to his wife and baby, the notes collected in Other People’s Love Letters: 150 Letters You Were Never Meant to See (Clarkson Potter) offer a glimpse into intensely personal expressions of love, lust, and loss.
We asked former Life magazine editor Bill Shapiro, who started the project after peeking at a girlfriend’s love letter from an ex, what he got out of asking other besotted scribes to share their juicy words with the world.
Q: What did you learn from reading thousands of otherwise private thoughts?
A: Everybody wants to be understood. You are voyeuristically looking at somebody else’s
experience on every page, but you’re also seeing your own.
Q: What makes for a good love letter?
A: What makes a good love letter is what makes a good lover. It’s a combination of being strong, vulnerable, funny, and willing to try new things. It might be a good idea to start a correspondence with your partner because you may be able to get to a deeper level than with just talking.
Q: Does a text message or email have the same effect as a written letter?
A: If you’re in a meeting and get a text message that says, “Hey, I can’t wait to take your pants off,” how great! But as far as something that you can hold and feel—there’s something very sensual about that. And very lasting. There are some letters from 1911 [in the book], and I’d be surprised if 100 years from now we see text messages saved.
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