A Review of Ander Monson’s Letter to a Future Lover

August 7, 2015 § 2 Comments

letterA review from e.v. de cleyre:

The sun seared skin, turned limbs pink, and I underlined: “This is what we hope for, to lose ourselves in stream and look up some hours later and note that the world has moved: the cat’s crept closer, following the sun.”

Except that today it was so hot, the neighbor’s cat crept closer to my shadow to escape the sun, while I hadn’t crept at all—a testament to the spell of a good book.

A similar sort of spell seems to have a hold on Ander Monson: purveyor of libraries, collector of marginalia, seeker of errata, translator between the past and future selves who inhabit pages. He asks, “If not of books, if not of boxes, if not of libraries or echoes, if not of lines of text paper-chained together, then of what are we composed?”

Letter to a Future Lover: Marginalia, Errata, Secrets, Inscriptions, and Other Ephemera Found in Libraries is composed of essays that Monson wrote in response to books that the author “spent an hour or more inside.” To answer his question with a series of questions: if I am composed of books, what does it say about me that I read Letter to a Future Lover in its alphabetical order, rather than skipping around, as is suggested on page five? And what about my reluctance to underline and make marks in margins with a pen? Or that the only time I ever use a pencil is when reading? Or that I refuse to read at all in the absence of a pencil? If I were someone else, I could be less careful—like the Defacers.

“I didn’t always care like this,” Monson writes. “Look what books have done to me.”

Look: the sudden urge to write in fragments, to underline in pen, to steal from libraries, to write letters to future lovers and leave them on the shelves, to incessantly question, to risk sunburnt skin if it means reading a few more pages, to feel like I could slip into the cracks beneath the pages and nest inside the binding, because it’s more than a book—it’s a conversation, it hums, it is the deepest, most thoughtful mode of communication: “Every sentence is a ping where I am from, bit pulse sent to test a circuit, check to see if someone or something’s listening on the other end. The response could be a year or a century from now, but we still make the call.”


e.v. de cleyre is a semi-nomadic writer, currently residing in the Pacific Northwest. She holds an MFA in nonfiction from New Hampshire Institute of Art, and her essays and reviews have appeared in Ploughshares online, The Review Review, and ayris.


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