Sunday, January 22, 2012

84, Charing Cross Road

Our library has two used book stores. One is in the basement of the library, the other in the Armory Mall, beside it. Though it's called a mall, it's not what you think on when you think of a mall. Built in 1913, the main floor is a wide hall with glass walls and doors on either side. In most malls the doors would take you into different stores. The Armory Mall has a hairdresser's and social services offices. It used to be the home of Spark Box Studio(a space for artists to live research, investigate and experiment) which was upstairs, in the back, but they moved.
When I was a kid the Sears catalogue store was in there, and the video store, and I think I can recall a bookstore and even a record shop. Then again, if I were going to recreate it in my memory to make it magical I would add a book store and a record shop. Doesn't matter, as I was saying, it has a used book store now and I did find something magical in it: "84, Charing Cross Road", by Helene Hanff.
This little book was one I hadn't heard of before, even though there is a film version with Anthony Hopkins and Anne Bancroft. It's a small, unassuming book: a collection of letters from an American writer to a British book seller. I thought the book would be good for the bathroom, actually. I could read a letter each time . . . you know. How quickly I finished the book would depend on how much fibre was in my diet.
But, when I got home, I decided to read the first letter and that was it. I couldn't put it down. It was just so charming and so human. It reminded me a bit of the letters Mom and Dad shared through their engagement, but the only romance shared in the book was a mutual love of books, and people.
It is a wonderful book and I highly recommend it. The book itself will never see the bathroom as it has become one of my little treasures and will be placed on the shelf above my desk where I can reach for it whenever I need to have my faith in humanity restored.