A love for letters

Today's postal strike comes as something of a relief to a Blonde whose pale paws are lacerated with paper cuts from the snowdrift of wax-sealed, tear-stained, petal-spattered purple prose presented to her on a silver platter every morning by a buckle-kneed butler as she sets about her breakfast kippers.

I love letter-writing because it indulges my peculiar brand of gregarious misanthropism; as Byron said (and those are three words to be taken with a glass of laudanum, several times daily) it is the only device for combining solitude with good company. This is also true of reading, and thus by a limber leap of logic, even truer of epistolary novels.

The best literary letters capitalise on correspondence's capacity for subjectivity, subterfuge and sin, from the irreligious urges of Abelard and Heloise to the immoral advertising execs in Matt Beaumont's e. Even books with ostensibly moral missions become sutbly sabotaged by the empathy we experience when immersed in the mind of a murky pen-wielding protagonist. Despite the subtitle Virtue Rewarded, the lasting impression of Richardson's Pamela (mocked at publication for licentiousnes) is one of furtive fumbles, and the contemptibly compelling diabolical anti-hero of CS Lewis' The Screwtape Letters is more likely to makes us into wavering Wormwoods than righteous Christians.

Po-faced romantics need not apply. Earnest, heartfelt letters about the virtuous vascillations of a sensitive soul are torture to read; The Sorrows Of Young Werther is as cheerlessly cloying as a silo of grandad's butterscotch candy.

The big daddy of epistolary novels is of course Les Liaisons Dangereuses, Laclos' sinuous, disingenuous masterpiece that leaves you feeling dirty, disenchantedly hopeless and hopelessly horny. While the posties protest, dig out a copy and learn from the best.

Dressing up as John Malkovich or Michelle Pffeifer is optional, but highly recommended.