Monday, November 23, 2009
Wonder of wonders
Wonder of wonders, I found a remarkable book last week. 84, Charing Cross Road is not a book like many others. It was published in 1970 and it just goes to show you what a blessed job BPL’s librarians do of preserving books that this tome still sits on the shelf. As I read it, sitting in one of downtown Birmingham's beautiful parks, I was reminded of what a gift the library is, because it collects and offers such gems.
84, Charing Cross Road is nothing more than a series of letters, a twenty-year correspondence, between an American (N.Y.C.) scriptwriter and the employees of a wonderful British bookshop named “Marks and Co.”
The featured scriptwriter, Helene Hanff, is uproariously funny, not to mention generous and kind (she sends gifts of much-coveted food to Marks and Co. employees through a European catalog, as England suffered under a meat-rationing phase following WWII). Those Brits loved that quirky American, too, and not just for Hanff's scrumptious parcels but for her rare and insatiable appetite for antiquarian books and her original wit and world view. There was a movie made from this glorious book with a young Anthony Hopkins and Anne Bancroft (neither of whom could have been a suitable substitute for the experience of reading this book).
If you have not recently visited one of the twenty Birmingham Public Library locations, who preserve so many rare and wonderful books, then you should, and if you have not remembered to thank your local librarian for their work recently, then you should, because this group of employees in the city of Birmingham has done a job worthy of every tax dollar which it graciously receives.
And for all the talk of the book going away, as if someone is going to strike a match and cause these precious tomes to reach Fahrenheit 451, not to mention the dubious idea that one day we will be reading all our books from a computer screen, it was just wonderful to have that soft November sun hitting the pages of the 39-year old book while the autumn leaves fell around the Linn Park Fountain. I think technology is grand, but I’ll take a fine-papered book printed on good stock any old day.
To reserve a copy of this book or any other, please visit bplonline.org or catalog.jclc.org.
And speaking of book reviews, the annual publication of Season's Readings, a collection of BPL's staff reviews, will hit the shelves soon. Be on the lookout at your neighborhood library for a copy of this publication.