Teaser Tuesdays: 84, Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just open your current read to a random page and share a few sentences. Be careful not to include spoilers!

Friends, the hype was correct. (Okay, maybe it’s quiet, bookish hype, but there is hype, I tell you.) 84, Charing Cross Road is sweet, hilarious, and apt. I love it. It’s a collection of correspondence between writer Helene Hanff, living in New York City and scraping together a living, and an antiquarian bookshop in London, from 1949 until… I’m still reading. I highly recommend it. For example, from Hanff’s letter of August 15, 1959:

I have these guilts about never having read Chaucer but I was talked out of learning Early Anglo-Saxon/Middle English by a friend who had to take it for her Ph.D. They told her to write an essay in Early Anglo-Saxon on any-subject-of-her-own-choosing. “Which is all very well,” she said bitterly, “but the only essay subject you can find enough Early Anglo-Saxon words for is ‘How to Slaughter a Thousand Men in a Mead Hall.'”

Funny stuff, no? Today’s teaser is in special honor of my mother, who has an advanced degree in linguistics and may have an intelligent response for us. Happy Tuesday!

5 Responses

  1. Lol! Sounds funny. I have never heard of this book (I guess the hype was a little TOO quiet and bookish) but I will now be seeking it out. Thanks for sharing!

    I hope you’ll stop by and visit my teaser!

  2. I haven’t read this in ages. I love this book — and I love the movie.

  3. I love Helene Hanff. So witty and fun!

  4. Ok, I agree with the comment about OLD English (Anglo-Saxon). The problem is, Chaucer wrote in what we now call MIDDLE English, which is much more accessible to English speakers of today. Chaucer doesn’t do mead halls and monsters; he does bawdy stories told by a nice assortment of Middle-Ages travelers in JO England.

    Whoa! I missed your final comment because I went straight to straightening-out the letter-writer. (I should use big words here now, eh?) So, I’m outed. BUT I only took a semester of Old English. Loved it, but my criticism would be that there’s an abundance of praise-the-Lord vocabulary. The poems praising god, and Beowulf, are equally guilty: we don’t save grocery lists as long as we save ecclesiastic tomes.

    Regretfully, I never studied Chaucer; it’s not written in a foreign language, so Old English was the only option.

    But read on! Maybe I’ll find someplace else to use my sharpened pencil & wit. Yomama

    • Lol! Thank you for your oh-so-learned comments – I especially like the part about the grocery lists. You know, I don’t think I ever read any Chaucer. But I definitely had the vague notion that his language was difficult. Always glad to have you here Mama. 🙂

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