The Letter Left to Me

Joseph McElroy, Author Knopf Publishing Group $16.95 (151p) ISBN 978-0-394-57196-6
The nameless narrator of this short, abortive fiction is 15 when his father, a Wall Street employee, dies and his mother hands him a letter kept in a desk drawer for years. This rueful, typewritten note, ostensibly from his dead father, is full of ringing, platitudinous advice urging the youth to make something of his life and not waste his abilities, as dad had done at Harvard. Soon the boy's Brooklyn relatives have distributed 100 handsomely printed copies of the letter to friends and family. When he goes off to college, he finds the dean somehow has a copy of the letter, which he dubs ``Lessons in Survival'' and disseminates to the freshman class. McElroy ( Women and Men ) has spun a convoluted, rambling interior monologue reflecting the narrator's emotional numbness, his confusion, his social snobbery and his unresolved grief over the loss of his father. But the mysterious, self-perpetuating letter is like a private symbol, its meaning known only to the author and his mixed-up alter ego. (October)
Reviewed on: 08/05/1988
Release date: 08/01/1988
Paperback - 152 pages - 978-0-88184-536-5
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