Thursday, May 29, 2008
Review: 84, Charing Cross Road, by Helene Hanff
84, Charing Cross Road is a delightful collection of letters chronicling the 20-plus years’ correspondence between screenwriter Helene Hanff and Frank Doel, bookseller of Marks & Co. It begins with a request in which Helene inquires after a series of books she wants to buy, saying that Barnes & Nobles’s sells “marked up, grimy schoolboy” copies of the books she wants (my, how things have changed!), and continues through a friendship between Hanff and Doel in which the two never meet. As their lives grow and change, Hanff and Doel’s friendship remains the one constant.
It’s a special friendship, and Hanff is sharp-tongued and witty, making her a delightful narrator. I have a feeling that not all of the letters are preserved here in their entirety, but they’re reprinted word-for-word, including Hanff’s idiosyncratic punctuation—no doubt due to the fact that she typewrote all of her letters, but nonetheless, the letters show Hanff’s personality and her rather abrupt way of corresponding.
It’s a short book (just about 100 pages), but it’s a special book, nonetheless, about a shared love of books. 84, Charing Cross Road is a must-read for any bibliophile. Its too bad that a woman in the subway accidentally tipped soda into my bag and all over my copy of this wonderful book...