Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Touching books

Having seen the movie 84, Charing Cross Road quite a few times because I enjoyed it so much, my excitement when Judy handed me Helene Hanff's little book with the same name to read was tempered somewhat by wondering how the book was going to differ from the movie.

The makers of movies are almost never content to just to follow the book on which the movie is based. Sometimes the changes help the story and sometimes they don't. And sometimes the changes seem to be for no reason at all. The movie made of Runaway Jury started off so differently from the book, we thought we had stumbled into the wrong theater.

In one of the early letters Helene Hanff wrote to Morris & Co, which is dated 10 days after my birth, she says...

...the Stevenson is so fine, it embarrasses my orange-crate bookshelves. I'm almost afraid to handle such soft vellum and heavy cream-colored pages, being used to the dead white paper and stiff cardboardy covers of American books, I never knew a book could be such a joy to the touch.
I love books and I love holding them in my hands -- I will never ever become an "e-book reader" -- but I have never owned a fine, beautifully bound book such as she describes that is a joy to touch. The books I read are mostly temporary residents, either from the library or borrowed from another person (usually Judy!). And the occasional books I do buy are almost always from the used-book store (thought I better throw the hyphen in there in case Miss Thistlebottom is reading this) or the thrift store or garage sales.

She concludes the letter with...

Will you please translate your prices hereafter? I don't add too well in plain American. I haven't a prayer of ever mastering bilingual arithmetic.
Laughing out loud here. I was counting up calories yesterday and added 62 and 62 and come up with 134.

As I work my way through this book, I see that the movie was perfect. And this evening when the day's work is done, I will go on what is probably a fruitless search to find video cassette #388, on which we recorded 84, Charing Cross Road and Empire of the Sun, and watch Ann Brancroft and Anthony Hopkins -- and indeed the rest of the wonderful cast -- give flawless performances as Helene Hanff and Frank Dole.

1 comment:

The Weaver of Grass said...

Books and movies are interesting - on the whole I prefer books, so that I can form my own image of character rather than have it presented to me. But just occasionally the director and producer get it right - then I like both.