The Thursday Night Letters: A Stamp in the Wrong Hands... by P K Munroe
|The Thursday Night Letters: A Stamp in the Wrong Hands... by P K Munroe|
|Reviewer: Paul Harrop|
|Summary: Actual letters to, and replies from, everyone from the Pope to Prince Philip. There's occasional wicked fun to be derived from the tone and content of the letters, and the variety of the responses.|
|Buy? Maybe||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 128||Date: June 2007|
|Publisher: New Holland Publishers Ltd|
|External links: Author's website|
I approached this book with a heavy heart. The idea of sending wacky letters, and printing them up alongside dour replies from various firms and institutions is hardly new. But I'll also admit to being pleasantly surprised by The Thursday Night Letters. What it lacks in originality, it makes up in offbeat ideas and genuinely funny moments.
Each page reproduces one of many missives sent by one P K Munroe. On the facing page is the reply, if any was forthcoming. The letters each describe an invention or concept which the recipient is expected to be able to market. Except that the ideas are nearly all facetious.
Some of the ideas are plausible enough. The hot and cold electric blanket, and the website on which you can custom-design your own funeral seemed almost workable. The swiftness with which they were spurned - by Trevor Bayliss (of wind-up radio fame) and the National Association of Funeral Directors respectively - was a tad unfair. Let's not forget the number of rejections most good ideas receive before they are adopted.
And most of the ideas in this book do have that shred of plausibility, however far-fetched. This lends them their charm, and probably accounts for the politeness of many replies.
Some recipients even get the joke. The Department of Transport, surprisingly, responds in the spirit of the original letter (which suggested special 'park and row' lay-bys in which couples could pull over for a marital argument). Corporate giant Unilever is revealed to have a sense of humour; and Cambridge University press is positively charming in its brush-offs.
Most of the replies, though, are resolutely po-faced. There is gentle humour to be derived from those who take the letters at face value. You can even feel slightly superior to the standard rejections prompted by most of the letters. Although, to be fair, you can also understand the impatience of recipients as they realise that their time is being wasted.
The greatest amusement is to be had from the satirical barbs. The anti-Chelsea tractor stickers sent in to Top Gear are witty. The repeated mocking of Andrew Lloyd Webber is satisfyingly childish. Best of all was the idea for nodding celebrity dolls pitched to insurers Churchill as a variant of their nodding dog mascot. This suggested 'nodding' Gillian Taylforth and Divine Brown figures (for over-18s only).
A few ideas miss the mark: dandruff-controlling headphones, or a beer calendar for example. But most have enough credibility or a spark of quirkiness to elicit a reply from the recipient and a snigger from the reader.
It's not a book that'll set the bestseller lists alight or produce a wealth of spin-offs. But in the age of Dragon's Den (Peter Jones from the show is quoted on the cover), where desperately earnest and depressingly lame ideas are pitched as serious contenders, this book is a welcome breath of fresh and irreverent air.
You might like to have a look at the book's website.
For a similar recent variant on the spoof letter genre, you could try Delete This at Your Peril: One Man's Fearless Exchanges with the Internet Spammers by Bob Servant.
The Thursday Night Letters: A Stamp in the Wrong Hands... by P K Munroe is in the Top Ten Funniest Books.
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You can read more book reviews or buy The Thursday Night Letters: A Stamp in the Wrong Hands... by P K Munroe at Amazon.com.
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