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97 pages, Paperback
First published January 1, 1970
"Your ad in the Saturday Review of Literature says that you specialize in out-of-print books. The phrase 'antiquarian book-sellers' scares me somewhat, as I equate 'antique' with expensive. I am a poor writer with an antiquarian taste in books and all the things I want are impossible to get over here except in very expensive rare editions, or in Barnes & Noble's grimy, marked-up school-boy copies.Her letter was responded to by an employee of Marks & Co. with the initials FPD, who we later learn is Frank Doel, the chief buyer for Marks & Co.. And so the epistolary novel of 84 Charing Cross Road begins. For 20 years Helene maintains correspondence with Marks & Co., and particulalry with Frank.
I enclose a list of my most pressing problems. If you have clean secondhand copies of any of the books on the list, for no more than $5.00 each, will you consider this a purchase order and send them to me?"
"I do love secondhand books that open to the page some previous owner read oftenest."Helene had never been out of the USA and lived for the day when she could visit London. Frank, his wife and others, tried many times to get her to visit them, but some crisis or another, generally financial, did not afford her that luxury.
"I love inscriptions on flyleaves and notes in margins, I like the comradely sense of turning pages someone else turned, and reading passages someone long gone has called my attention to."
"The Book-Lovers' Anthology stepped out of its wrappings, all gold-embossed leather and gold-tipped pages, easily the most beautiful book I own including the Newman first edition. It looks too new and pristine ever to have been read by anyone else, but it has been: it keeps falling open at the most delightful places as the ghost of its former owner points me to things I've never read before."
"I houseclean my books every spring and throw out those I'm never going to read again like I throw out clothes I'm never going to wear again. It shocks everybody. My friends are peculiar about books. They read all the best sellers, they get through them as fast as possible, I think they skip a lot. And they NEVER read anything a second time so they don't remember a word of it a year later. But they are profoundly shocked to see me drop a book in the wastebasket or give it away. The way they look at it, you buy a book, you read it, you put it on the shelf, you never open it again for the rest of your life but YOU DON'T THROW IT OUT! NOT IF IT HAS A HARD COVER ON IT! Why not? I personally can't think of anything less sancrosanct than a bad book or even a mediocre book."
"If you happen to pass by 84 Charing Cross Road, kiss it for me! I owe it that much."I will do that for Helene, the next time I am in London, as I'm sure thousands before me have done so, and thousands of others will do in the future.