Posted in book review

Lists of Note by Shaun Usher

Lists of Note: An Eclectic Collection Deserving of a Wider AudienceLists of Note: An Eclectic Collection Deserving of a Wider Audience by Shaun Usher

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The act of note-taking is the prerogative of humans throughout the history of civilization; impromptu, interesting, and important, the nature of notetaking is to capture a train of thoughts that comes to one’s mind. This book by Shaun Usher is a pleasant compilation of such notes flooding vicissitudes of humankind. It is a sequence to his bestseller Letters of Note, which is a riveting compendium of letters of all kinds throughout the history of the world. Mr. Usher, who is very keen on collecting personal correspondence of people, has indeed again exerted great effort and time to make this project possible through the support of his fans via Unbound com, an organization which has helped writers publish their works since the 18th century in England.

The book contains some very intriguing notes as follows: (1) Bill of Mortality which tells of the kinds of ailment English people of the 17th century died of, (and the reader will be surprised to find that one of the common causes of death was abscess); (2) an ancient Egyptian worker’s note on his absences recorded on a limestone; (3) Leonardo Da Vinci’s notes on what he would need to research for the anatomy of a man; (4) Michaelangelo’s list of food he wanted to eat with adorable pictures accompanied during his travel to and from Pietrasanta to extract marble used for the Basilica of San Lorenzo; (5) Sir Isaac Newton’s list of note revealing his peevishness with his mother and father, striking his sister and servant and neglecting to listen to a Sunday sermon in church; (6) Mark Twain’s list of note showing all the food he wanted to eat at home upon his returning from a long European trip; (7) Marilyn Monroe’s resolution to attend her new acting class without fail and to enroll in an English Literature class; and (8) Jack Kerouac’s note to his friend for writing tips in which he asserted the importance of free writing without grammatical, syntactical, and literary inhibition. These are just a few notable excerpts from the book, and the reader will have no time for boredom in reading this book.

This is a quick read which one can enjoy without having to analyze the contents of the notes. The only foible about this read in Kindle version is that the original scripts of some of the notes are not clearly shown due to a mechanical aspect of the device. For this reason, it will be better to own a hard copy of the book as the notes are pictured in their entirety, so that the reader can see clearly the writing styles and discern the personalities and characters of the notetakers to a certain extent. The reader will realize that the act of note-taking, however simplistic and insignificant it may seem, is in fact a way of sketching the flow of thought from a world full of things assorted and flowing without a sense of purpose for composite significance.

Posted in book review

Letters of Note by Shaun Usher

Letters of Note: An Eclectic Collection of Correspondence Deserving of a Wider AudienceLetters of Note: An Eclectic Collection of Correspondence Deserving of a Wider Audience by Shaun Usher

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

It was from “A Way with Words” a public radio show about the English language, including the origins of words, the usages, and good books that I came to know this lovely book. It’s a stupendous compendium of letters from the famous and the ordinary from the ancient to the modern with beautiful photo copies of the letters reproduced in the book. The letters span the whole range of human emotions from kindness, passion, love, joy to heartbreak, anger, disappointment, and longing as the contents of the letters reveal the writer’s’ innermost thoughts, feelings, and emotions through the vehicles of pen and paper.

Reading each of the letters made me feel deeply touched by the universality of humanity and reflective of the human nature manifested in writing without prejudice on the grounds of appearances and social standings, which influence our perceptions of individuals. Readers can find lots of very interesting letters in this book. Of all the letters in the book, the following three letters resonate in my mind: (1) E. B. White’s letter to his gentleman acquaintance regarding the importance of having hope for humanity; (2) Anaïs Nin’s rebuking letter to a faceless collector of her co-authored “Erotica” for his demand of more prevalent racy contents; and (3) a nameless German woman’s letter to her husband asking him to take her back home from a dreadful mental hospital she was in. It was so heartbreaking to read her brief letter to her husband that I could feel her pain, fear, and sadness alone in the grim place… I commiserated with her….

Mr. Usher in his foreword states that if the readers are inspired to put pen to paper by reading the letters in the book, his intention of compiling the book will be fulfilled and greatly appreciated. That’s a very noble intention and sublime aspiration in this digital age. This book is a lovely work of art which the readers will never tire of.