Category Archives: The Forbes Book of Great Business Letters

The Forbes Book of Great Business Letters: Memos, Missives, Pitches, Proposals and E-Mails edited by Erik Bruun

The Heart is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers

I finally finished The Forbes Book of Great Business Letters: Memos, Missives, Pitches, Proposals and E-Mails (edited by Erik Bruun) and am on to The Heart is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers.

I haven’t read any of her books before and am excited to read this one, McCullers‘s first novel published in 1940; I’m reading it with a book club. Critics call it a classic unforgettable tale of moral isolation in a 1930s small Georgia mill town; Tennesee Williams called McCullers “the greatest prose writer that the South [has] produced.”

If I enjoy The Heart is a Lonely Hunter as much as I expect to, I’ll have to read some of her other works such as: Reflections in a Golden Eye, Clock Without Hands, and The Member of the Wedding.

Here are some of the discussion questions I’ll keep in mind as I read:

  • The title of the book comes from a poem by William Sharp, with the lines “But my heart is a lonely hunter that hunts / On a lonely hill.” What is the significance of the title? Is each character in the novel hunting the same thing, or is each in search of something different? McCullers‘s original title for the book was The Mute. Why do you suppose the change was made?
  • McCullers describes John Singer as “an emotional catalyst for all the other characters.” What does his presence inspire in others? Do you believe that he remains inert, as a catalyst by definition should, or is he himself affected by his interactions with the others? Why or why not?
  • McCullers once described the central characters in the novel as “heroic, though ordinary.” How does each character show elements of heroism? Is there a character you find more heroic than the rest?
  • In the book’s first section, Biff’s wife, Alice, quotes Mark 1:16–18: “Come ye after me, and I will make you to become fishers of men.” How does this quote resonate throughout the novel? What role does spirituality play in the novel? Do the characters strive for communion with a higher spiritual force or unifying principle, something greater than themselves?
  • Music has great importance in the book, from Mick’s aspirations to become a pianist to Willie’s ever-present harmonica. McCullers, who had once hoped to study music at Juilliard, even described the structure of the novel as a three-part fugue, and explained, “Like a voice in a fugue, each one of the main characters is an entity in himself — but his personality takes on a new richness when contrasted and woven in with the other characters in the book.” In what other ways does this musicality assert itself in The Heart is a Lonely Hunter? What does music symbolize in the novel? How, too, is silence used?
  • The novel has been widely praised for its ability to illustrate how social, economic, and racial factors serve to isolate people from one another. In what way is each character isolated? What efforts does each make to overcome this alienation? Are the efforts successful or ultimately futile?
  • John Singer dreams he is kneeling before Antonapoulos, who stands at the head of a set of stairs. Behind Singer kneel the four other main characters: Mick, Biff, Jake, and Copeland. How does Singer’s dream reflect the relationships among the main characters? To what extent is Singer’s love of Antonapoulos similar to the attention paid to Singer by Mick, Biff, Jake, and Copeland? Are these characters capable of loving one another? Of receiving love? Are some characters better emotionally equipped than others? Why or why not?
  • Mick Kelly is considered the most autobiographical character McCullers ever created. Mick’s tomboyishness, her musical aspirations, and her dream to escape small-town life parallel the author’s own. When Mick realizes she cannot afford a violin, she tries to build her own. What does the violin symbolize? What does this act tell you about Mick’s character? Do you have sympathy for her when she fails? Do you feel closer to Mick than you do to the other narrators?
  • Mick compartmentalizes her thoughts into what she calls an inner room and an outer room. Why does she do this? Do other characters show this same type of duality? How does it manifest itself?
  • When Jake Blount finds a Bible passage written on a wall, he responds with his own message and then searches for the person who wrote the original message. Why is it important to him to find that person?
  • Dr. Copeland has great dreams for his family and for his community, but he is unable to gain much support for his ideas. Do you think Copeland’s self-perception that he is a failure is valid? How many of his frustrations are a result of racial bias in society? Why do you suppose his relationships with his children are fraught?
  • The Heart is a Lonely Hunter has been praised for its sensitive and realistic portrayal of racial tensions in the Depression-era South. What relevance does the novel have today? How much has changed since the 1930s?

Check out Oprah’s Book Club for specific discussion questions for each Part of the book.

Forbes Book of Great Business Letters: Memos, Missives, Pitches, Proposals and E-Mails by Erik Bruun

I’ve been reading The Forbes Book of Great Business Letters: Memos, Missives, Pitches, Proposals and E-Mails (edited by Erik Bruun) off and on for months and months now — it’s a 500 page book. I’ll probably finish it up tomorrow.

I don’t know what it is about letters and other primary sources but I very much enjoy reading them.

The Forbes Book of Great Business Letters immediately made me think of Letters of a Nation: A Collection of Extraordinary American Letters (edited by Andrew Carroll), a unique collection of more than 200 letters from the arrival of the Pilgrims to the present day. In fact some letters, such as Cesar Chavez’s Good Friday 1969 letter to E.L. Barr, Jr. (President of the California Grape and Tree Fruit League), are in both books! The Journals of Lewis and Clark and I Love You, Ronnie by Nancy Reagan are two other primary source books that I love — Lewis and Clark for it’s beautiful historical and scientific account of exploration of America’s West and I Love You, Ronnie for the Reagans’ tender and heartfelt expressions of love.

But back to The Forbes Book of Great Business Letters . . . this extraordinary collection presents business advice from big names like Alfred P. Sloan, Jack Welch, John D. Rockefeller, Bill Gates, Benjamin Franklin, and Leonardo da Vinci through their own correspondence. Drawn from around the world and across history, these personal and professional communications reflect the wit, eloquence, practical wisdom, and historical interest of letters, memos, emails, and telegrams.

Grouped into fourteen categories, the letters offer general business advice, discuss labor conditions and the difficulties of employment, address the roles of government and business, discuss the pros and cons of central banking, issue praise, assign blame, propose deals, market products and services, and promote new ideas.

These are the topics:

Advice

Beasts of Burden

  • Cesar Chavez‘s Good Friday 1969 letter to E.L. Barr, Jr. (President of the California Grape and Tree Fruit League)

Business and Government

The Competitive Edge

Compliments and Complaints

  • Clyde Barrow (of Bonnie & Clyde) commending Henry Ford on the reliability of his cars, particularly for quick getaways
  • An amusing note from a dissatisfied customer to a French typewriter shop using the defective typewriter that used “x” instead of “e”

Deals (Proposals, Deal Negotiations, Sealed Deals)

Employment (Getting a Job, Career Choice, Management, Employment, Departing Work)

Finance

  • J. P. Morgan‘s October 29, 1907 memo to create a $30 million bond issue that prevented New York City from going into bankruptcy
  • Bernard M. Baruch predicting the 1929 stock market crash in a letter to Senator William H. King

Marketing

  • Kentucky Distillers’ Co offer to sell its list of customers to the Keeley Institute, the widely known alcoholics’ sanatorium; “Our customers are your prospective patients”
  • Correspondence regarding Norman Rockwell‘s endorsement of paint-brushes made by two rival companies

The Money Chase

New Frontiers

New Ideas

Rights

  • Letter from Harry Houdini (born Ehrich Weiss) asserting his rights to the Water Tourture Cell which he invented

Work and Business Ethics

The Forbes Book of Great Business Letters is inspirational, humorous, poignant, and informative. Most of the items in this collections are publicly available and no longer protected by copyrights.

Still, the value is in the collection and I’d like to purchase a copy to add to my ever expanding library.

Why blog?

I love to read. Since I was a child, I’ve always enjoyed spending my money on books and my time devouring them. I also enjoy writing (even though it was always my worst subject in school) and in my current job I don’t get to write much of anything.

I intend to use this blog to keep a journal of the books I read. I read all sorts of books and am a member of several book clubs.

After a spell of business books, I’ve been reading novels. Also, I want to learn more about positive psychology and nutrition and have added several relevant books to my soon-to-read short-list.

Currently, I’m reading:
The Secret History of the War on Cancer by Devra Davis
A New Earth: awakening to your life’s purpose by Eckhart Tolle
The Heart is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers
Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See
The Forbes Book of Great Business Letters: Memos, Missives, Pitches, Proposals and E-Mails by Erik Bruun (editor)

And on my list to read shortly are:
Authentic Happiness: Using the New Positive Psychology to Realize Your Potential for Lasting Fulfillment by Martin E. P. Seligman
The Happiness Hypothesis: Finding Modern Truth in Ancient Wisdom by Jonathan Haidt
How of Happiness: A Scientific Approach to Getting the Life You Want by Sonja Lyubomirsky
The Paradox of Choice: Why More is Less by Barry Schwartz
The Cure Within: A History of Mind-Body Medicine by Anne Harrington
The Omnivore’s Dilemma: a natural history of four meals by Michael Pollan
In Defense of Food: an eater’s manifesto by Michael Pollan
Animal, Vegetable, Miracle : a year of food life by Barbara Kingsolver
Strategy and the Fat Smoker: doing what’s obvious but not easy by David H Maister