84, charing cross road, by helene hanff



My January book review project ran into a hiccup this weekend when I lost my internet connection for 24 hours. There was no book review for yesterday, and in keeping with my policy to remain sane at all times, I’m just letting that one go.

I’m sure that anyone who reads this blog has also read 84, Charing Cross Road. Really, I just want to write about it as a way of saying hello again to one of my favorite books. If by any chance you’re not familiar with it, and I’m so lucky as to be the girl who introduces you, I’m honored. It’s a collection of correspondence between Helene Hanff, an American writer in New York, and Frank Doel, the manager of Marks & Co. Booksellers in London. The letters span 20 years, from 1949 to 1969. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a funnier, more poignant or more genuine book anywhere. I rarely say this about a book, but the movie is every bit as good (Anne Bancroft and Anthony Hopkins, 1987).

I’m sitting here paging through the book looking for a tidbit to post, and getting teary-eyed from the wonderfulness. I’ll pick a funny one, so I don’t get all maudlin. Here you are. A small diatribe from Helene to Frank, all cantankerous and sans header (when a girl wants a book, she doesn’t bother with pesky niceties like addresses and salutations. or punctuation and capitalization):

“March 25, 1950

Frank Doel, what are you DOING over there, you are not doing ANYthing, you are just sitting AROUND.

Where is Leigh Hunt? Where is the Oxford Verse? Where is the Vulgate and dear goofy John Henry, I thought they’d be such nice uplifting reading for Lent, and NOTHING do you send me.

you leave me sitting here writing long margin notes in library books that don’t belong to me, some day they’ll find out i did it and take my library card away.

I have made arrangements with the Easter bunny to bring you an Egg, he will get over there and find you have died of Inertia.

I require a book of love poems with spring coming on. No Keats or Shelley, send me poets who can make love without slobbering – Wyatt or Jonson or somebody, use your own judgment. just a nice book preferably small enough to stick in a slacks pocket and take to Central Park.



Well, don’t just sit there! Go find it! i swear i don’t know how that shop keeps going.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *