Tuesday, January 01, 2019

84, Charing Cross Road

84, Charing Cross Road. Helene Hanff. 1970. 97 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: Gentlemen: Your ad in the Saturday Review of Literature says that you specialize in out-of-print books.

Premise/plot: 84, Charing Cross Road is a collection of letters exchanged between the author, Helen Hanff, and a British book dealer, Marks & Company. The first letter is dated October 5, 1949, and the last is dated October 1969. Many of the letters are between Helene and Frank Doel. The letters focus mainly on books and authors--titles she's hoping to buy, titles she's enjoyed, titles she's hated. But the letters also include plenty of chit-chat as she gets to know the employees of the shop and the families of the employees as well.

The letters contain flashes of spirit that are charming.
October 15, 1951
WHAT KIND OF A PEPYS' DIARY DO YOU CALL THIS? this is not pepys' diary, this is some busybody editor's miserable collection of excerpts from pepys' diary may he rot. I could just spit. where is jan. 12, 1668, where his wife chased him out of bed and around the bedroom with a red-hot poker? where is sir w. pen's son that was giving everybody so much trouble with his Quaker notions? ONE mention does he get in this whole pseudo-book. and me from philadelphia. I enclose two limp singles, i will make do with this thing till you find me a real Pepys. THEN i will rip up this ersatz book, page by page, and WRAP THINGS IN IT. HH (31)
 May 11, 1952
Dear Frank:
Meant to write you the day the Angler arrived, just to thank you, the woodcuts alone are worth ten times the price of the book. What a weird world we live in when so beautiful a thing can be owned for life--for the price of a ticket to a Broadway movie palace, or 1/50th the cost of having one tooth capped. Well, if your books cost what they're worth I couldn't afford them! You'll be fascinated to learn (from me that hates novels) that I finally got round to Jane Austen and went out of my mind over Pride and Prejudice which I can't bring myself to take back to the library till you find me a copy of my own. Regards to Nora and the wage-slaves. HH (50)

My thoughts: What a lovely way to start a new year!!! This is a charming collection of letters. If you love books about books, or, if you love meeting other book lovers, then this is a true must read.

© 2019 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

1 comment:

Gretchen said...

I've been meaning to read this book for years! Thanks for the review. It has inspired me to read it.