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Ripe. Letters, by Alan Semrow, seeks to redefine relationships
by Joe Franco
2018-11-28

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People live in a world of relationships.

When one hears "relationship," that person may think boyfriend, spouse or girlfriend. Alan Semrow's latest book seeks to expand one's understanding of what a relationship actually is.

Ripe: Letters is a collection of missives to men—actual men, fantasy men, men Semrow knows, men Semrow wished he'd known. Beginning with a letter to "Birthday Guy," Semrow immediately invites the reader deeply into his own life. His description of a liaison the morning of his birthday is honest and says exactly what many others might think but never admit—even though this is a one-off meeting, they really like the guy.

Semrow's letters seem to grow in maturity right along with him. Later, we meet the "Great White Buffalo." Whoever this man is, Semrow is smitten and although their time together is notably brief and long-distance, he acknowledges it with the same kind of respect often accorded long-term relationships: "Even if it was the last time, it was the perfect ending." Semrow gives respect to his feelings and candidly admits that yes, he may have fallen in love and that's okay.

"I noticed the moments we share with people," Semrow told Windy City Times. "Many men I know could be very flippant about their one-night stands, but I just didn't see that as being realistic." Semrow admitted that he could not disregard others in that way, saying, "We are going to have those real moments. They should be humanizing and vulnerable."

Semrow added, "Even in very brief interactions with another, you have some kind of feeling. This collection of letters is just how I felt."

The inspiration for Ripe was not a singular event, saying, "I had read Dear Mr. You by Mary-Louise Parker, a book where she writes letters to the men in her life that have changed and influenced it, and I liked that style." Semrow acknowledged that after his first book he felt misunderstood and out of place, "I wrote three books in between my first book, Briefs, and Ripe—and none had what I wanted." Semrow found that letter-writing seemed easier than typical prose or a novel. "I wrote a letter for Chosen Magazine and the editor, Christopher Hyde, encouraged me to go with them," he said. "So I did."

When asked if the men who anonymously appear in Ripe would be reading the letters, he said, "They are aware of it and will likely be reading them," adding as a joke, "Here's my Taylor Swift song." Yet, Semrow's work is nothing like a Taylor Swift song. They are positive tributes to men who have made an impact on his life during a time of significant self-discovery. Ripe's narrative arc follows a man looking for his voice. Both the author of these letters and Semrow himself seem to have found it.

Ripe: Letters is currently available on Amazon. Alan Semrow's work can also be read at ChosenMagazine.com .


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