Correspondence that kicks ass (1 Viewer)


Founding member
Am reading the collected correspondence of the Beats right now.

First the letters of William S. Burroughs to Ginsberg, then the letters of Burroughs to everybody, then the Yage Letters. Now I am reading the letters of Ginsberg to Kerouac and vice versa.

While the Kerouac and Ginsberg of these letters clearly were two sensitive young men exploding with unique creativity, I have to say I find their letters terribly longwinded and at times boring and conceited. Burroughs, compared to their wailings, seems like a razor cutting through bullshit - sharp, clear sighted, often very very funny.

Which brings me to the question: Whose correspondence did you enjoy reading?

My tipps are:

Bukowski (who would have guessed?)
Henry Miller
Letters of the Marquis de Sade to his wife
@Johannes I have a book of Kerouac letters and I found much the same thing as you - boring and conceited. Have not read much Ginsberg correspondence but it sounds like the same issue.

@roni Van Gogh is a good one!

also Buk, Marquis to his wife, and I hear that Joyce letters to his wife are quite the read (some say banned as pornographic, not sure about that) though I have not read them.
Joyce wrote some hilarious love letters to his wife, about her farts and pussy and stuff. I read excerpts of them once, but forgot.

Will get back to them, thx. Also the Van Gogh, will try, will try!

Thank you all.

Btw, here is another tipp: The German poet Gottfried Benn wrote some very funny letters. He managed to have multiple women going at many times in his life and was very proud of his management skills in this regard, so that they would never know of each other. He brags about this in his letters, how he would visit the one woman in the morning and the other in the afternoon and so on ... quote of his: "Good time management is more important than fidelity."

Then he hooked up with a third woman (who later became his second or third wife) and broke up with the other two by writing them almost similar letters why it didn't work anymore, citing point one, financial reasons, point two, emotional reasons, point three, erotic reasons ... and so on.

Don't know, if his correspondence was ever translated. Don't think so. A shame, it's very interesting and funny.
Last edited:
@Johannes yes, I've heard the Joyce ones are a riot, a true Irish prankster both in letter and verse it seems. Where did you read the excerpts? Would love to check them out.

Van Gogh is just so damn passionate and truthful in some of his. The man had no filter, which is good for us but was not so good for him.
I haven't read many of van Gogh's letters, but I always found this one to be beautiful:

"It seems to me that a painter has a duty to try to put an idea into his work. I was trying to say this in this print — but I can’t say it as beautifully, as strikingly as reality, of which this is only a dim reflection seen in a dark mirror — that it seems to me that one of the strongest pieces of evidence for the existence of 'something on high' in which Millet believed, namely in the existence of a God and an eternity, is the unutterably moving quality that there can be in the expression of an old man like that, without his being aware of it perhaps, as he sits so quietly in the corner of his hearth. At the same time something precious, something noble, that can’t be meant for the worms."
I read a book of letters between letters Mozart and his wife Constanze (I can't find it for sale anywhere, I suppose it's long out of print), and I learned that he really loved her and had to travel a lot for his job, and that he liked to tell fart and poop jokes.

@5:28am That's exactly what I am talking about with Van Gogh...dripping with passion and intensity in all things, including his letters (especially to Theo). Thanks for the post - that was a good one!

@mjp got to love Mozart, only the greats realize the timeless genius of fart and poop jokes.
Thanks Ponder, will try the Flaubert!

Beauvoir/Algren I did read once and remember reading about them that people were kind of disappointed of the Beauvoir letters in this, meaning that she was a regarded as one of the top female writers international at the time (which I never thought, by the way -- find her novels unreadable and dull, but maybe the German translation) and here are these kind of standard love letters saying over and over again "I miss you, I love you, I wish you were here, I love you, I wish I was there ..." and not much more.

And I was like, what did you expect, bitches?
Last edited:
When you are in the middle of a Translantic Love Affair (if real love is involved) you say things like I wish you were here, just like they missed Syd Barrett.
The only correspondence books I have, besides Bukowski's, are:

Burroughs - Letters 1945-59.
Burroughs - Letters 1959 - 1974.
Van Gogh - Letters to his brother, Theo.
Hunter S. Thompson - The Gonzo Letters, Vol.2 - Fear And Loathing In America. (spanning the years between 1968 - 1976).

They're all quite interesting and many of Burroughs´ and Hunter's letters are funny too.
Update: on October 8. 1952 Kerouac wrote a hilarious bitching letter to Ginsberg because G. had criticized an early draft of On the Road. Kerouac must have been very frustrated, hurt, drunk and a major ego-bitch at this point. Probably all together.

Best parts:

"Do you think I don't realize how jealous you are and how you and Holmes and Solomon all would give your right arm to be able to write like the writing in On the Road."

"Why you goddamn cheap little shits are all the same and always were and why did I ever listen and fawn and fart with you"

"[John Clellon Holmes] book stinks, and your book is only mediocre, and you all know it, and my book is great and will never be published"

"And now I am an old man too ... I realize that I am no longer attractive to you queers ... Go blow your Corsos ... I hope he sinks a knife in you"

"the time has come for all you frivolous fools to realize what the subject of poetry is ... death ... so die ... and die like men ... and shut up ... and above all ... leave me alone ... and don't ever darken me again.
Jack Kerouac"
Last edited:
"And now I am an old man too ... I realize that I am no longer attractive to you queers ... Go blow your Corsos ... I hope he sinks a knife in you" - Too funny! :D

Users who are viewing this thread