Bantock, Nick. Gryphon: in which the extraordinary correspondence of Griffin and Sabine is rediscovered. San Francisco: Chronicle Books, 2001.
Reason read: I have flung myself so far down the rabbit hole I can’t find my way home. Maybe I’ve lost sight of what home means. I don’t know. After revisiting Griffin & Sabine and Sabine’s Notebook I realized I couldn’t stop with The Golden Mean. I couldn’t stop. At all. I couldn’t stop. For nothing. I guess you could say it was all for nothing.
In Gryphon we move on from Griffin and Sabine to Matthew and Isabella, another pair of star-crossed lovers. Don’t worry, G & S are still there, just in a murkier role. Sabine needs help from archaeologist Matthew, but the meaning behind her request is all smoke and mirrors. As with all the other books in the series, the art is amazing, even if the story has gotten a little too cloaked in mystery.
Best line in a letter, “I’ve tried to escape from the realm of your skin, by concentrating on your voice, but that only leads to your mouth and then I’m back where I started” (Matthew to Isabella).
International Centre for the Picture Book in Society, ed. Migrations: Open Hearts, Open Borders. Somerville, MA: Candlewick Studio, 2019.
Reason read: This was an Early Review from LibraryThing that I didn’t receive. I was curious about it so after publication I borrowed it from the local public library.
Coming from a place of spoiled privilege, I need more books like Migrations in my life, despite its deceiving simplicity. Growing up, my parents were not wealthy, but they provided. I always had a roof over my head, a safe and comfortable place to call home. It is hard to think of what life would be like without a secure or reliable place to live. The reality is we live in a world where thousands and thousands of people are displaced every single day.
With it’s beautiful hand painted art, illustrators of children’s books from all over the world took part in contributing postcards to the project. The layout of Migrations reminded me so much of Nick Bantock’s Griffin and Sabine.
I don’t even know where to begin with September. It was the month from hell in more ways than one. The only good news is that I was able to run twice as many miles as last month. That counts for something as it saves my sanity just a little bit more than if I didn’t do anything at all.
Here are the books:
- In the City of Fear by Ward Just
- Jim, The Boy by Tony Earley
- The Shining by Stephen King
- Thank You and OK! by David Chadwick
- Foreign Correspondence by Geraldine Brooks
- Ayatollah Begs to Differ by Madj Hoomin
- Agony and Ecstasy by Irving Stone
- Tripwire by Lee Child
- Foundation and Earth by Isaac Asimov
Early Review for LibraryThing:
- My Life on the Line by Ryan O’Callaghan
Ginzberg, Natalia. The City and the House. New York: Seaver, 1987.
Reason read: April is Letter Writing Month. The City and the House is epistolary.
Giuseppe leaves Italy for Princeton, New Jersey where his newlywed brother has promised him a teacher of Biology position. Cousin Roberta keeps him up to date on what has happened to his apartment since the new neighbors moved in. She also supplies very gossipy reports on the doings of Giuseppe’s movie-maker son, Alberico and exlover, Lucrezia. But, Giuseppe and Roberta are not the only ones in communication. Letters confirming and denying gossip and truth fly back and forth between various friends, lovers, and family. The different perspectives remind me of Michael Dorris’s Yellow Raft in Blue Water.
Confessional: In the beginning I had to keep a notebook of all the characters writing back and forth to one another; the correspondence of family members referencing other family members, neighbors, and friends all flowed back and forth like a storm-tossed tide. But like any written correspondence there are gaps in information and speculation fills those gaps. Is Lucrezia in love with Ignazio Fegiz? She can barely stand to write his name. Hints becomes reality. It was interesting to see the cycle of relationships, people moving back to one another while others move on entirely.
Quotes to quote, “Two people can get along very well without having anything to talk about (p 36) and “Once you’ve reached a certain age you realize that either you stand on your own two feet or you’ve had it” (p 70).
Author fact: Ginzburg was an Italian Communist.
Book trivia: The City and the House is Ginzburg’s last novel.
Nancy said: Pearl said if the literary technique of tales told in letters The City and the House is a good one.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Epistolary Novels: Take a Letter” (p 79).
Bird, Isabella. A Lady’s Life in the Rocky Mountains. Norman, Oklahoma: University of Oklahoma Press, 1960.
Bird, Isabella. A Lady’s Life in the Rocky Mountains. London: John Murray, 1881.
Reason read: Colorado became a state on August 1st, 1876.
In what started as letters to her sister Isabella Bird paints vivid pictures of a very young Colorado as she travels from the Sandwich Islands to Estes Park, Colorado. Because the trip to the Hawaiian islands is so fresh in Bird’s mind, she can’t help but make interesting comparisons between the tropical island and the wild western plains. She even wears the same clothes in both climates. As with Bird’s other adventures, her courage and tenacity shine through her prose. Most memorable for me was the fact Bird would don a long skirt and ride polite side saddle in the company of men but alone she would wear pants and ride western style. Comfort, not propriety, was her ultimate goal.
As an aside, it is encouraging to think there is a wilderness in Colorado that still exists to this day; one that Isabella Bird would say looks exactly the same. How can one not think of Natalie Merchant’s Cowboy Romance?
Lines I liked, “Is common humanity lacking, I wonder, in this region of hard greed?” (p 27), “I longed to speak to someone who loved the mountains” (p 90) and “At this account of the ascent of Long Peak could not be written at the time, I am disinclined to write it, especially as no sort of description within my powers could enable another to realise the glorious sublimity, the majestic solitude and the unspeakable awfulness and fascination of the scenes in which I spent Monday and Tuesday (p 91).
Author fact: Bird was only 72 when she passed away. I like to think about the places she would have explored had she had more time. She was the first woman elected a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society.
Book trivia: A Lady’s Life in the Rocky Mountains was originally published in 1879. Colorado was only three years old at the time. The maps and illustrations are wonderful.
Nancy said: Pearl didn’t say anything specific about A Lady’s Life in the Rocky Mountains but she mentioned that Bird was “one of the more dashing and irresistible travelers” (Book Lust p 143).
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the simple chapter called “Lady Travelers” (p 142).
Wright, Richard B. Clara Callan: a Novel. New York: Harper Collins Publishers, 2002.
Reason read: January has a Sisters Week for some country.
Engaged. Engaged is the word I would describe how I read Clara Callan. I think I read it in four days. Despite its name, Clara Callan is actually about two women, sisters in fact. Clara is the elder, living in their deceased parents house in a small rural town outside Toronto. She is a no-nonsense serious schoolteacher who loves to play the piano, read and write poetry; a perfect candidate for spinsterhood and self righteousness despite the fact she no longer believes in God. Since it is the 1930s and Clara is so mysterious, she is also fodder for constant gossip and worry in her village. Meanwhile younger sister Nora Callan has flown the coop to America and the Big Apple to seek fame and fortune as a radio star. Despite their vasts differences the sisters remain close, sharing letters to keep in touch. Clara’s journal rounds out the epistolary tale and fills in the gaps.
Probably my favorite subliminal element to Clara Callan is how Wright weaves current events into to the story. Nora, being in show business, complains of a bratty young man hanging around a pretty brunette. The talented brunette would go on to star in a little movie about a wizard from Oz. Or the radio program designed to sound like a real newscast scaring the bejesus out of everyone. Or the new sensational book, Gone with the Wind. It is very tempting to put together a list of every book Clara reads or every song she mentions.
The novel has a Bridges of Madison County kind of feel to the ending. I was a little disappointed with the tactic.
Favorite lines, “As we drew closer to the great city, we passed freight yards and apartment buildings that were so close to the tracks you could look in on people’s lives” (p 74) and “I wasn’t aware that I muttered in the morning, but I suppose I do” (p 223). That’s what happens when you live alone for so long. You lose track of your habits until someone else finds them again.
One more quote, “The innocuous and banal words of the defeated who hopes to stir just a spoonful of guilt into the heart of the marauder” (p 321). How many times have I been there myself? This was a painful line to read.
Author fact: Wright has written a bunch of books with interesting titles. Unfortunately, this is the only one on my Challenge list. Also, I just found out Wright died in early 2017.
Book trivia: Clara Callan is a 2001 winner of the Giller Prize and the Governor General’s Award.
Nancy said: Clara Callan “won every major Canadian literary award in 1991” (p 201).
BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Sibs” (p 199).
As we move into April I am not confident we won’t get another 26″ snow storm. If we ever joked in the past about not being able to predict the weather, now it is impossible. It’s no laughing matter. My rose bushes, right now struggling under the weight of frozen water, could tell you that. But never mind the weather. Let’s talk about the month of April. April is another 10k for cancer. I’m hoping to break the hour time since I was five seconds away in March. April is also Easter. April is my sister’s birth month. April is also books, books and more books…of course:
- ‘F’ is For Fugitive by Sue Grafton ~ in honor of Grafton’s birth month. Technically, I should have read all the “alphabet” books by Grafton one right after the other, but I didn’t have that system when I read “A” is for Alibi. I think it goes without saying I do now.
- The Diplomatic Lover by Elsie Lee ~ in honor of Lee’s birth month. I am not looking forward to this one even though it looks like a quick read.
- A Celibate Season by Carol Shields ~ in honor of April being Letter Writing Month. This is so short I should be able to read it in one sitting.
- Henry James: the Untried Years (1843 – 1870) by Leon Edel ~ in honor of James’s birth month. This first volume chronicles James’s childhood and youth.
- Coming into the Country by John McPhee ~ in honor of the Alaska trip I’m taking in August.
- The Rise of Endymion by Dan Simmons ~ this is to finish the series started in January, in honor of Science Fiction month. I liked Endymion the best so I have high hopes for The Rise of Endymion. I am listening to this on audio and reading the print because I know I will never finish the 575+ pages by April 30th.
- Blue Lightning by Ann Cleeves ~ this is to finish the series started in January, in honor of Shetland’s fire festival, Up Helly Aa. This is another one I should be able to finish in a day or two.
Early Review for LibraryThing:
- My Life with Bob by Pamela Paul
Extra (for fun):
- Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara- ~ my sister sent this in my belated birthday package. Whatever she recommends I usually end up liking whether it be music or books. For those of you who really know me – I know what you’re thinking. Yes, my birthday was in February. I got the birthday package over a month later. It’s what we do.
If there is time (since three books are really, really short):
- Another Part of the Wood by Kenneth Clark ~ in honor of National Library Week
- The Oxford Murders by Guillermo Martinez ~ in honor of April’s Mathematics, Science and Technology Week
- Lost Upland by WS Merwin ~ in honor of well, you know the song…April in Paris. Cheesy, I know.
Mailer, Norman. Selected Letters of Norman Mailer. Edited by J. Michael Lennon. New York: Random House, 2014.
Letters can be so revealing, especially when the author is only writing for the intended audience of the recipient(s). There is a raw honesty about true character that comes through each missive. The Selected Letters of Norman Mailer is arranged in chronological order. Starting in 1940, Mailer is a student at Harvard writing to his parents, and like any typical kid he is constantly asking for money (“I have to pay for my meals not & I hate to starve myself” p 12). What comes through (besides his self described poverty) is how serious, even then, he was about his writing…even if he was a little pompous about how “easy” it was for him to get published. [As an aside, I had to laugh when I discovered his mom typed his stories for him.] With his wife, once he is in the army in ’45, Mailer is more intimate and revealing. He confides in her about World War II in a way he couldn’t with anyone else. What I found off-putting was how he treated her through these letters, the names he called her. But if she put up with it, or even liked it, who am I to judge? Hello? Have you read 50 Shades? But, that’s not the point of this review. I’m not here to talk about the man but the book. This is definitely something for the diehard Mailer fan. It does help if you have familiar with Mailer’s work, but you don’t have to be to enjoy Selected Letters. Lennon arranges Mailer’s missives to reveal a growing artist, youthfully cocky, intensely passionate and protective of his craft. Just read the letters in which Mailer defends the use of profanity and refuses to have it culled from The Naked and the Dead. From the 40s blossoms a writer sure of himself and the his place in the world.
I liked learning new things about Mailer and his writing. For instance, I didn’t know Naked and the Dead was a play and it has never been performed.
Reason read: As a member of the Early Review program for LibraryThing, I am reviewing Selected Letters. This, amazingly, is my 91st ER/LT book.
I love it when the books I chose to read in a given month are “interlocking.” For example, Wild Blue, Maus I, Maus II, A Good Life, Polish Officer, and The Assault all took place in and around the events of World War II. It wasn’t planned that way, but they all had that common theme. In January I finished Shot in the Heart by Mikal Gilmore. Gilmore wrote a heart wrenching first hand account of his family. Now, as an Early Review award, I have read Norman Mailer’s Selected Letters. Mailer, of course, wrote The Executioner’s Song about Mikal’s brother so I knew there will be letters about Gary.
Author fact: I chose this book because I am a diehard letter writer myself. Like Mailer, it is inconceivable to me to not answer a letter. It is for this reason I share a special kinship with Mr. Mailer.
Book trivia: Over 860 pages long, Selected Letters is quite the heavy book. The subject matter was so fascinating I didn’t notice the length. What I missed, though, was a hand written letter from Mailer. I don’t know why but I wanted to see what his handwriting looks like! Lennon could have included just one! He did include photographs of himself throughout the years.
As an aside: I enjoyed jotting down some of the books Mailer mentions in his letters. They include Of Human Bondage, Walden, Anna Karenina, Walk in the Sun, Passage to India, The White Tower and Ulysses to name a few.
Here we are, three months into a new year of the Challenge. March marks month four. Weird, I know. Here are the books. You will notice a few additions. That’s because I found out that Batya Gur wrote a series and Murder on a Kibbutz is in the middle.
Dragon Reborn by Robert Jordan(DNF) In a Strange City by Laura Lippman By a Spider’s Thread by Laura Lippman (AB) Recognitions by William Gaddis(DNF) Maus by Art Spiegelman Lady Franklin’s Revenge by Ken McGoogan Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao* by Junot Diaz (AB)
Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson Eugene Onegin by Alexander Pushkin Shadow Rising by Robert Jordan ADDED: A Good Doctor’s Son by Steven Schwartz ADDED: Drinking: a Love Story by Caroline Knapp ADDED: Ancient Rome on 5 Denarii a Day by Philip Matyszak ADDED: Nero Wolfe Cookbook by Rex Stout ADDED: Treasure Hunter by W. Jameson (ER) Maus II by Art Spiegelman (Jan) ADDED: The Dew Breaker by Edwidge Danticat (AB)
ADDED: In Xanadu by William Dalrymple ADDED: The Assault by Harry Mulisch Wild Blue by Stephen Ambrose
Shot in the Heart by Mikal Gilmore
Greater Nowheres by David Finkelstein/Jack London
ADDED: Alma Mater by P.F Kluge
ADDED: Old Man & Me by Elaine Dundy
ADDED: Dud Avocado by Elaine Dundy
Good Life by Ben Bradlee Underworld by Don DeLillo Her Name Was Lola by Russell Hoban
Man Who Was Thursday by GK Chesterton Fires From Heaven by Robert Jordan Finnegan’s Wake by James JoyceDNF Herb ‘n’ Lorna by Eric Kraft Polish Officer by Alan Furst – AB Lord of Chaos by Robert Jordan(Mar) ADDED: Walden by Henry David Throreau ADDED: Reservations Recommended by Eric Kraft (Mar/Feb)
- ADDED: Selected Letters of Norman Mailer edited by J. Michael Lennon – ER (Feb -?)
- Chasing Monarchs by Robert Pyle (Mar)
- ADDED: Saturday Morning Murder by Batya Gur (Mar)
- Bebe’s By Golly Wow by Yolanda Joe (Mar)
- Lives of the Muse by Francine Prose (Mar)
- Broom of the System (David Wallace (Mar)
Crown of Swords by Robert Jordan(Apr)
- ADDED: Little Follies by Eric Kraft (Apr/Feb)
- ADDED: Literary Murder by Batya Gur (Apr)
- Two Gardeners by Emily Wilson (Apr)
- Royal Flash by George Fraser (Apr)
- Fifties by David Halberstam (Apr)
- Binding Spell by Elizabeth Arthur (Apr)
Crown of Swords by Robert Jordan(Apr) Path of Daggers by Robert Jordan(May)
- ADDED: Where Do You Stop? by Eric Kraft (May/Feb)
- Murder on a Kibbutz by Batya Gur (May)
- Flash for Freedom! by George Fraser (May)
- Murder in Amsterdam by Ian Buruma (May)
- Petra: lost city by Christian Auge (May)
- From Beirut to Jerusalem by Thomas Friedman (May)
- Jordan by E. Borgia (May)
- Coroner’s Lunch by Colin Cotterill (May)
- Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese (May)
- Flash at the Charge by George MacDonald Fraser (May)
- ADDED: What a Piece of Work I Am by Eric Kraft (Jun/Feb)
- Castles in the Air by Judt Corbett (Jun)
- Battle Cry of Freedom by James McPherson (Jun)
- Thirty-three Teeth by Colin Cotterill (Jun)
- Millstone by Margaret Drabble (Jun)
Winter’s Heart by Robert Jordan(Jun) Crossroads of Twilight by Robert Jordan(Jul)
- At Home with the Glynns by Eric Kraft (Jul/Feb)
- Disco for the Departed by Colin Cotterill (Jul)
- Sixty Stories by Donald Barthelme (Jul)
- New Physics and Cosmology by Arthur Zajonc (Jul)
- Grifters by Jim Thompson (Jul)
- Complete Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle (Jul)
- Snow Angels by James Thompson (Jul)
- Ararchy and Old Dogs by Colin Cotterill (Aug)
- ADDED: Leaving Small’s Hotel by Eric Kraft (Aug/Feb)
- Flashman’s Lady by George MacDonald Fraser (Aug)
- Possession by AS Byatt (Aug)
- In the Footsteps of Ghanghis Khan by John DeFrancis (Aug)
- What Just Happened by James Gleick (Aug)
- Game of Kings by Dorothy Dunnett (Aug)
- ADDED: Inflating a Dog by Eric Kraft (Sep/Feb)
- Curse of the Pogo Stick by Colin Cotterill (Sep)
- Flashman and the Redskins by George MacDonald Fraser (Sep)
- Queens’ Play by Dorothy Dunnett (Sep)
- Robber Bride by Margaret Atwood (Sep)
- Mysterious Affair at Styles by Agatha Christie (Sep)
- Beautiful Struggle by Ta-Nehisi Coates (Sep)
- Then She Found Me by Elinor Lipman (Oct)
- Merry Misogynist by Colin Cotterill (Oct)
- Disorderly Knights by Dorothy Dunnett (Oct)
- Flashman and the Dragon by George MacDonald Fraser (Oct)
- Dark Hills Divide by Patrick Carman (Nov)
- Love Songs from a Shallow Grave by Collin Cotterill (Nov)
- Flashman and the Mountain of Light by George MacDonald Fraser (Nov)
- Pawn in Frankincense by Dorothy Dunnett (Nov)
- Andorra by Peter Cameron (Nov)
DNF = Did Not Finish; AB = Audio Book; ER = Early Review
al-Shaykh, Hanan. Beirut Blues. Translated by Catherine Cobham. New York: Anchor Book, 1995.
In the beginning, reading Beirut Blues seems like being dropped in the middle of a multi-person conversation without knowing who is involved or what they are talking about. There is a tedium to filling in the gaps as you are reading. With “Dear —” it is obvious from the beginning someone is writing a letter. It takes a little deduction to figure out who is writing the letter and who is her intended audience. There is a lot to fill in within the lines. But, throughout Asmahan’s letters there is passionate reverberation and a running commentary on her beloved Beirut before, during and after the civil war. Most of these letters will probably never reach their intended audience and that fact adds another layer of mystery to them. One of the saddest letters to read is the one Asmahan writes to her grandmother. She focuses on her grandfather’s emotional and physical
relationship romance with a much younger girl. It becomes startling clear when Asmahan sees the girl’s bruises and pictures her grandfather leaving them on his young lover. It’s a rude awakening to a different culture. Other poignant letters include ones to the war and to the land of Beirut. But, my favorite part was the end, when Asmahan has to decide whether or not to leave war torn Beirut for France to be with her married lover. It’s a scene rife with indecision and torn loyalties.
Probably my biggest gripe about Beirut Blues is the sheer number of people mentioned in Asmahan’s letters. I have kept a running list of the names dropped: Afaf, Ali, Aida, Bassam, Fadila, Fatima, George, Hayat, Hussein, Hasoun, Isaf, Jill, Jummana, Juhayna, Jawad, Kazim, Karki, Lalya, Munir, Morrell, Mustafa, Musa, Naima, Naser, Nizar, Nikola, Nadine, Ricardo, Simon, Salim, the Spaniard, Suma, Safiyya, Vera, Yvette, Zaynab, Zemzem, Zakiyya (not counting grandmother and grandfather) and I know I have missed a few. To my ignorant American ears these names are confusing. For all I know they are not only the proper names of people but of places as well.
Line I liked, “My appeal, even my normal liveliness, must have deserted me” (p 64). Here’s another: “I expected some burning emotion to be rekindled between us, but the kiss ended quickly and there was no aftermath” (p 72). And another: “…instead you sing the reality you live” (p 135). Last one, “Coming to this school, having new shoes and a mother in America, seemed to put a gleam on my mind as if I had polished it with almond oil” (p 170).
Reason read: August 15th is the official Lebanese holiday Assumption of the Virgin Mary.
Author fact: Another al-Shaykh book on my challenge list is Women of Sand and Myrrh. I’m looking forward to reading it.
Book trivia: This is a book that requires a little patience to read. There is no pulse pounding plot, nor dilemma a hero must solve before the last page.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Leavened in Lebanon” (p 130).
Lindbergh, Anne Morrow. The Flower and the Nettle: Diaries and Letters 1936 – 1939. Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1976.
The Flower and the Nettle is Anne’s return to the living. It covers 1936 to 1939. After the death of her first born son she and Charles take their second son, Jon, to England for an “indefinite” stay. They are literally driven out of their own country by the media’s insatiable need to photograph and question the family. First, it was Charles Lindbergh’s fame, then it was the kidnapping and murder of their first child. It is at a rambling rented cottage in England called Long Barn that Anne and Charles can finally relax and be themselves again. Jon is allowed to play freely on the lawn without massive hyper-vigilant supervision. Anne is able to concentrate on her writing. It is here that humor returns to her diaries and letters. She says things like, “It is so delicious” (p 30), and “living passionately in the present” (p 31). Later, after her third son Land is born, Anne and her family move to Illiec off the coast of France. This is the “flower” part of her life. The “nettle” is the approach of World War II and the ensnaring politics. Following Charles to Russia for business Anne vocalizes her discontent with the country. She uses words like dirty, hideous, mediocrity, drab, shoddy, third-rate and glum to describe such things as the poor middle class. She is quick to comment negatively on their fashions and complexions. This took me by surprise. What I needed to keep in mind is the intense scrutiny Anne and her family felt. The longer they stay away from America, the more “pro-Nazi” they are “villainized” as being.
One drawback of skipping a book in a series is the potential to not understand references made to that book in the next one. Because I didn’t read Locked Doors I didn’t grasp Lindbergh’s reference to a previous trip to Russia in 1933.
Favorite lines, “One gets so cramped in ordinary living” (p 76). A good excuse to get out there and do something extraordinary!
As an aside, looking at pictures of Long Barn I can’t help but think what a wonderful place! Don’t tell my husband, but it looks like my dream home! It would have been nice if Lindbergh had included maps of not only her travel destinations, but of the places she and her family lived in Europe.
Reason read: to continue the series started in January, in honor of Journal Month.
Book trivia: Maybe because The Flower and the Nettle is a longer book, there are more photographs. For the first time, Anne includes detailed pictures of the interiors of their residence. Long Barn looks like a place where I would like to live!
Author fact: At this point in Lindbergh’s life she considers herself a serious writer despite already publishing earlier.
BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Journals and Letters: We Are All Voyeurs at Heart” (p 131).
Hanff, Helen. 84, Charing Cross Road. Recorded Books, Inc., 1993. Audio cassette.
My first audio book of the training season! I have to start off with a confession. I didn’t expect 84, Charing Cross Road to be so funny. I don’t know if it’s the actual story or the way the actress reads it. Maybe it was the combination of both. I had some real laugh-out-loud moments.
The year is 1949. Helene Hanff is a Jewish writer who prefers to mail order books from Marks And Company, Booksellers, a small book shop in London, England instead of frequenting a bookstore just blocks away from her one room apartment in New York City. She doesn’t explain how she came to find this particular shop nor what first prompted her to write to them specifically, but what follows is a series of letters written between Ms. Hanff and different employees of the shop, the most notable recipient being Mr. Frank Doel. In her letters Ms. Hanff comes across as a sassy, brash, and sometimes demanding American while Mr. Doel’s British replies are decidedly courteous if not stuffy (otherwise known as prim and proper). Over time Hanff wins Doel over with her sarcastic wit and he “loosens up” little by little. So begins a 20 year love affair between book lovers. Hanff also writes others in the shop as well as their families. She generously sends post-war gifts of food and clothing (items rationed at that time) that win over the entire shop. While the book is short (just 84 pages long or two hours of audio) you are drawn into Hanff’s relationship with the employees of the book shop. You end up hoping she takes that trip across the pond to meet them.
Book Trivia: 84 Charing Cross Road was made into a movie and a play.
Author fact: Helene Hanff died of diabetes when she was 80 years old.
BookLust Twist: From More Book Lust in the chapter called “Journals and Letters: We Are All Voyeurs at Heart” (p 131).
Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von. Sorrows of Young Werther. Boston: Frances A. Niccolls & Co., 1902.
There are so many little facts about this 134 page story that I just loved! First, I find it enticing that this eighteenth-century novel was written anonymously. It was if it really was meant to be autobiographical. There are many similarities between Young Werther and Johann Goethe. Another interesting tidbit about The Sorrows of Young Werther is that the story was both banned and embraced in eighteenth-century Germany.
To put it simply, Sorrows of Young Werther is about a young, impressionable artist who moves to a new, yet fictional town. He is enamored with his surroundings and shares his new-found joy with his friend, Wilhelm, through enthusiastic, vividly descriptive letters. For the first month the letters contain glorious accounts of the landscape, the sights, the sounds, and the people – everything around him. After that first month though, Werther’s entire focus centers on a young woman he met at a party. It’s obsession at first sight and he can think of nothing else but to be with her constantly. Unfortunately, Werther’s affections are doomed as the object of his affection, Charlotte, is already engaged to be married to a “worthy” gentleman. In an effort to remain near to Charlotte, Werther befriends her husband-to-be. Things becomes complicated (as they also do in this kind of situation). Of course this love triangle cannot last and ultimately ends in tragedy.
Telling lines: “We should deal with children as God deals with us, – we are happiest under the influence of innocent delusions” (p 35), “…a man under the influence of violent passion loses all power of reflection, and is regarded as intoxicated or insane” (p 47), and “I sometimes cannot understand how she can love another, how she dares love another, when I love nothing in this world so completely, so devotedly, as I love her, when I know only her, and have no other possession” (p 81). In these three quotes we see Young Werther growing more and more obsessed with Charlotte. It can only end badly and as we see on the very last page, it does, “The body was carried by labourers. No priest attended” (p 135).
BookLust Twist: From Book Lust in the chapter called, “Epistolary Novels: Take A Letter” (p 79).
I don’t think I care. Nope, can’t say as if I do. For nearly eight years I have been dealing with you and now I think, no – I know I am done. Done. Done. There have been some others I have ceremoniously said goodbye to, but none quite like this. I’ve done the sliding away, glad you haven’t called route. I’ve done the I’ll Make You Mad Enough To Leave Me routine. Been there, done that. This is different. This is me forcing you out and being really glad about it. It’s Survivor meets Lost. Get off the island and stay off. Trust me, you won’t be missed. Or looked for, much less found. This is me, giving you your walking papers.
I can’t stand mimics. Those people who try to flatter you by trying to be you. It’s just not cool. I believe in residual relationships – giving and taking. Adopting, if you will. I don’t care for copycats. Find your own voice. Your own hobby. Your own island. Let me go my own way. Without you.
Here’s the thing. I liked you. I grew fond of what you could be, until you showed me who you really are. Not who you want to be, but who really lives under your skin (and makes mine crawl). Sound the alarm. Scream bloody murder. Cry wolf. Do whatever you need to do – whatever will help you move on from me. I want you to jump ship or else someone will make you walk the plank. That someone might be me.
We are right in the middle of a messy divorce. Not that we want to be. We didn’t mean to put ourselves here – it just became part of the deal by default. But, in the grand scheme of things it has taught me a valuable lesson: stay away from drama. Run, don’t walk, from situations out of your control.
I learned of an on-coming train wreck last night. My first instinct was to jump from the track. My second was to stay and see what happens. High drama is always highly amusing. Except when there is the potential to get tangled up in it. I really, really don’t want to be involved. I was there before. I feel like I just got free of it. Why get in the way again?
Last night I ignored the signs and stayed on. Last night I wanted to believe. Today, I see things differently. Much differently.
There is a scene in some chick-flick movie. Of course I don’t remember the name of it. Bette Midler plays a meddling mother. She loves her daughter too much to be of any good to her. In the end she picks a fight to end the relationship. She does it on purpose to put some distance between her and her daughter. It’s painful – but necessary. Something she must do. At the time I didn’t understand the ending. Thought it was stupid and unnecessary. A royal WTF? Now, I get it. I am at that point. I get the point. All I want is for you to be happy. I’ve said it a thousand times. You mean the world to me. Butbutbut, I refuse to be part of the approaching drama. There is no way I can be involved and be accused. Again. If I can’t live my passions out in the open without having them distorted and distrusted I don’t want to have them at all. I refuse to defend what I hold dear.
Don’t hate me for pulling a Bette.