Letters 2004-2006 book review in Umbrella online

Letters 2004-2006: Confirmation That You Still Exist; I Respect Your Authority; When Will It End; One London by Martin John Callanan (London, Book Works, 2007, £7.50 paper) is an exploration of apparatuses of power. Callanan is a mass letter writer. Each letter poses a deceptively simple question or even inane rhetorical statement and the collected responses reveal the absurdity of bureaucracy and the egos of those that claim power.

Collected here are responses to a series of letters mailed between 2005-06, ranging from the bemused response of the Secretary to the Archbishop of Canterbury to the question “When will it end?” to appreciative letters from the offices of President Mubarak of Egypt in response to the declaration “I respect your authority.” I am reminded of Jeffrey Vallance’s letters to heads of state asking them for a tie (a men’s tie, of course) and the various responses. Epistolary art in the form of mail is an age-old technique–and this one involves politics as well. (Book Works’ Chap Book Series,no 8) The design of the “portfolio” containing the letters, as well as a list of all those contacted for each subject is beautifully conceived.

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