Monday, May 10, 2010

Books And Ephemera

It may seem strange, but up until last night, I had never seen 84 Charing Cross Road. I'd read the book in college(it was introduced to me by a rather eccentric young man with a love of cabaret music. We saw Stritch together) but for some reason hadn't gotten around to viewing it, even thought Netflix was always pushing it on me under any number of guises. Well, last night, I broke down and watched it, and what a treat.

For those of you who don't know the premise, it's about the (real-life) 30-year correspondence between an anglophilic New York woman and an antiquarian book dealer in London. Because of the story's time-span, tehre's obviously some aging awkwardness, and it's hard to say which is goofier, casting up as they did here or, young, as in Brokeback Mountain. I think it's safe to say that both are ridiculous in their own ways. But what a cast! Anne Bancroft, Anthony Hopkins and Judi Dench?! Gosh.

It's a really sweet story - I'd also suggest the book to anyone who wants a cozy read - but as much as the testament to friendship and letters, it's a really heartening portrait of a happy, independent, single woman with a rich and full life. (I like to think that if I end up a solo New Yorker, I can strike a balance between Helene Hanff and Dare Wright. Emphasis on the former, of course, but with a few dolls and photo-shoots.) I also like these friendships that can endure purely through letters, even when friends don't meet. Makes me doubly-eager to get to know some of you. That said, if ever there was a character who could have thrived in the blog age, it's Hanff: her breezy tone and open frankness would have made her a natural!

Been feeling Anglo-philey myself lately. Have been re-reading Barbara Pym, which I recommend to anyone in need of spiritual bolstering. I've also been contemplating actually trying the Barbara Pym Cookbook, although it's obviously imprudent. Am compromising by making a dish of "cauliflower cheese" for our dinner. For my birthday, my mother gave me a book I'd really been coveting: Agnes Jekyll's Kitchen Essays. These were written in the 1920s and have titles like "Luncheon for a Motor Excursion in Winter" and "A Supper After the Play." (I have not yet read "For the Too Fat.") A few examples of the author's prose:
Too much effort given to material things entails neglect of spiritual ones, too little induces loss of temper, money, and health. Some rare spirits there are who may discipline themselves into indifference of creature comforts, who may write magical poetry on lumpy porridge, paint glorious pictures on indifferent eggs, lead armies to victory on bully beef - we salute them and pass on! But with those who, whilst lifting reverential eyes to the stars, yet know and love this kind, warm earth, we would take counsel awhile.


A blue-blooded and conservative marquis may be forgiven his temporary loss of self-control when the newly-engaged cook sent on its gay career round a decorous dinner-party of county neighbors a transparent and highly-decorated pink ice pudding concealing within inmost recesses a fairy light and a musical box playing the "Battle of Prague."*

Even by the standards of sketchy 1920s recipes, and even for one who by any standard has cooked a lot from said canon, Lady Jekyll's are inscrutable. But as far as reading goes, this is obviously a literary gem. And who am I kidding? Slim gave me an antique aspic spoon for my birthday.

*"A popular piece of music during the late 18th and 19th centuries" by Frantisek Kotzwara. I couldn't find a recording!


sara said...

re: "Battle of Prague" -

Track 4 here gives some idea

Also, this from Amazon

Jaime said...

I've been satisfying my Anglophilia watching "Jeeves and Wooster" (starring Hugh Laurie and Stephen Fry) lately.

Sadie Stein Blog said...

@Sara Wow! Thank you, ma'am! I wouldn't have found that so objectionable in a pudding...

@Jaime Can't beat it. Although Rumpole is my comfort drug!