Friday, December 19, 2008

A Search for the Quaint

I am the midst of reading a delightful piece (recommended by Sara) called 84, Charing Cross Road, by Helene Hanff. It takes the form of a series of letters between a New Yorker in the 1950s and a small British bookshop. What starts out as a request for reading material turns into an overseas friendship. I can't tell you the ending since I'm still vastly enjoying the correspondence.

What struck me about this small book is the quaintness that seems to hold such charm for the New Yorker. She could go to Barnes and Noble and buy a second rate book, but instead decides to immerse herself in a small part of London where this small book store acquires treasures for her. Having recently completed a trip to England myself, I am a bit saddened by the fact that while traces of this 'quaint small town feel' is left, so much has been replaced by chains etc...

I understand the search of this woman to move beyond the normality of one's surrounding and search for something that is 'other.' Perhaps London seems not at all quaint to a Londoner, but to this bibliophile, it is an escape from the humdrum. In a sense this book is about two searches for otherness, one in a different country and one through the pages of good literature. I think some new light has been shed on two of my great loves: reading and travel.
Post a Comment