I managed two books this week, mainly because the first one was so short I finished it on Sunday. Read on for details . . .
Having watched the film version of 84, Charing Cross Road many times I was eager to read the book. I reserved it from our local library and was surprised by its modest dimensions when the librarian handed it over. Ninety-seven pages, that was all, and those not very full either. The book consists of letters exchanged between Helene Hanff, living in New York City, and the employees of Marks & Co., a used bookshop in London. Unable to get what she wants in New York, Hanff writes to Marks and Co., and thus begins a long, warm, and even loving relationship between her and Frank Doel, Cecily Farr, and the other "inmates" of the shop. The correspondence lasts for many years, and a real friendship springs up between them, though they never meet. The movie supplies a lot of details that the reader of the book must infer and fills in large dollops of narrative, which I didn't find distracting or distressing, though I might have if I had watched the movie after I had read the book. Both are funny and delightful.
I have many online friends. I have met almost none of them in person, but they are my friends nevertheless. I sometimes think it odd how many people I "know" through cyberspace and will likely never meet but who have enriched my life. I care what happens to them. These internet friends are in my thoughts and prayers, and I talk about them to my family and "real life" friends as if . . . well, as if they are my friends too~which they are! 84, Charing Cross Road is a reminder to me that sincere friendship can be nurtured through many media. Helene and all in the bookshop were true friends. It's just that that friendship was conducted from oppposite sides of the Atlantic through letters and parcels. What difference did that make, after all? Clearly, they made a difference in each other's life.
Add Three Men in a Boat: To Say Nothing of the Dog by Jerome K. Jerome to my short list of funniest books ever written. I actually laughed out loud. Many times. Why do I find British humor so completely amusing (except for Monty Python~blech!)? I think it's the quiet subtlety of so much of it. It doesn't slap you in the face but respects your intelligence and expects you to have to think to get the gag. Sometimes it slowly dawns on you. Jerome (how convenient to have the same first and last name!) achieves this over and over again. I found myself re-reading many passages just to revel in the hilarity. I positively wallowed in it at times. The plot (if you can call it that) revolves around a boat trip the author, two friends, and a dog are taking on the Thames in 1888. The mishaps are numerous. The book is largely one digressive jaunt into Jerome's past foibles after another. These side-trips are inspired by the events of the three men's journey (and don't forget the dog!) in a stream-of-consciousness sort of way. On the other hand, Jerome at times offers some lovely and poignant descriptions of, for instance, the scenery that momentarily made me forget I was reading a comedy. Then at the last minute he tacks on a funny sentence that suddenly reminds the forgetful reader that he is reading drollery.
Now I have an urge to re-read To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis, but since I just re-read it this past summer, I shall forgo that pleasure for now. I wonder what else Jerome K. Jerome has written, though. A little research is in order . . .
Here's trusty Mr. Linky for anyone who wants to share a book: