Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Newman's Words Soothing a Baby (84 Charing Cross Road)


Turner Classic Movies broadcast 84 Charing Cross Road this week, the movie based on Helene Hanff's book of the same title. If you love books, this is the story for you.

Newman's The Idea of a University occupies an important role in the movie. Frank of Marks & Co. finds Helene Hanff a first edition! She is thrilled by the news that he has found not just the book she wants, but such a wonderful copy of it.

Helene takes the book with her to babysit and when the baby is crying, reads aloud to her. The baby has taste, because she starts smiling as soon as she hears Newman's golden prose!

Hanff explains that she is Jewish, but she certainly requests Catholic books, including an edition of the Vulgate Bible--when what she receives doesn't suit her, she lets Frank et al at Marks & Co. know! In the case of the Vulgate, she is very disappointed that they've sent her a Church of England version.

It's a charming movie and demonstrates how relationships may develop through commerce and correspondence--Hanff writes to Frank that he's the only person who really understands her. In addition to exchanging books and cash, Hanff and Marks & Co exchange gifts and news. She sends them hampers of food including meat and eggs and when Frank finds a special volume of Elizabethan poetry, he sends it gratis. Hanff longs to go to England and to see them all at 84 Charing Cross Road and to see the England of English literature.

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