Letter-Writing Lit: Griffin & Sabine

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Though I make a habit of consuming lengthy, sweeping tomes with tiny serif-font text as a part of my everyday reading, there’s still nothing I love more than a clever, succinct, gorgeously illustrated “picture book.”

I fell in love with Nick Bantock’s eerily beautiful snail-mail spectacular, Griffin and Sabine, when I was in college–its closing lines still haunt me!–so I was delighted to find a copy of the book and one of its many sequels at a recent library sale. If you’re an art or literature nerd and a letter-writing fan: boy, have I got the book for you.

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The whole conceit of the original Griffin and Sabine story, in case you haven’t guessed already, is that the story unfolds through postcards and letters: an “extraordinary correspondence” for readers to voyeuristically peruse. I don’t want to spoil its enigmatic ending, but I will say that the letters and illustrations are almost too arcanely beautiful to believe.

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I haven’t yet read The Morning Star, a much more recent addition to the series–though I couldn’t resist the lure of buying such a well-preserved book for $3. That said, this single line has already captured my imagination…

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I’ve only ever encountered one other book like this–The Jolly Postman, Or Other People’s Letters, an extremely charming children’s mail-reading fantasy that I discovered at a friend’s house as a child. I remember carefully unfolding every hidden message, eager to experience the joys of reading in such a highly tactile way.

Though many works of literature adopt an epistolatory voice, few actually integrate real, readable letters and envelopes into the text: I wish that would become a more popular trope! (Perhaps I’ll rise to the task myself one day…)

Have you ever read Griffin and Sabine? Did you grow up with The Jolly Postman, or was I the only one? (Research suggests that it was slightly more popular across the pond in the UK, where it was published originally.) What are some of your favorite novels that take the form of letters?

2 thoughts on “Letter-Writing Lit: Griffin & Sabine

  1. I have not read any of these! I have requested the ones my library had and asked them to add to the collection the ones they do not. I very much look forward to it! Steam Laundry by Nicole Stellon O’Donnell is technically a book of poetry, but it tells a story (based on a true one even) through poetry that reflects journals and correspondence. You might enjoy it if you’re able to find a copy. Not quite the same as your suggestions, but a good read nonetheless.

    • Hey, thank you so much for the suggestion! I love poetry cycles that form a kind of narrative, and I’m particularly interested in Alaskan/Yukon history, so it sounds like an ideal read for me! I will have to track it down 🙂

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