Sunday, March 30, 2008

Quote du jour/Helene Hanff


If you've read any of Helene Hanff's writing, you'll know that she is no shrinking violet. She has strong opinions and isn't afraid of voicing them.

After writing in 84, Charing Cross Road that she has only three bookshelves, she continues:

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 sacrosanct than a bad book or even a mediocre book.

12 comments:

  1. This is so true! I tend to take my "rejects" to a used book seller, or donate them to the library, but I can't throw them out! But I do have to move them along, or I would be drowning in books.

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  2. I love this quote and think I subscribe to this philosophy. After working for weeks on cleaning out parents' condo, I sort of know why. Sheesh! They had shelves and shelves of books that they never, and I mean never, read. What is that about? I was a great anomaly in my family. But, my bookshelves are ever evolving.

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  3. I don't keep a book that I won't read again. I can't bring myself to throw one away though. I take it to the library so they can put it on their book sale. I always hope there is some other unsuspecting person that will give them a $ for it.

    I am even worse with movie. There are few movies that I have seen more than once. I don't ever buy movies either. I rent or just not watch them.

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  4. I so agree with her. And don't you just love that ascerbic wit of hers? I clean out my shelves at least once a year, and never look back. I think books should be passed along, just like recipes, for others to enjoy.
    That said, I still cannot get rid of my copy of 84 Charing Cross Road. :)

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  5. Her remarks remind me of the horror some people have when they discover librarians "weed" books - yank out the ones that haven't circulated for quite some time or are out of date or too shelfworn...

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  6. I love 84 Charing Cross Road, the book and the movie. I won't get rid of my copy either, but I will take books I don't think I'll ever read or read again to Half Price Books to get a few pennies for them or drop them off at Goodwill. And I'll admit sometimes, I dump a really bad book off in the paper recycle bin after removing the hard cover.

    Carol, May Dreams Gardens

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  7. Wonderful quote ... but I will have to think about it since I have this ridiculous hope that someday my child or grandchild will read the books I have loved and say "now I understand my mother -or grandmother - better." I think that only happens in books.

    I do, however, literally throw out a bad book no matter what the cost or cover!

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  8. I used to want to save every book I owned and read, but there simply isn't enough room! I sell my "rejects" to a used bookstore, making room for more, of course. :) I'm also trying to not buy so many books. If one I've borrowed turns out to be fabulous, I'll go ahead and buy it (sometimes even after finishing it - who knows, I may want to read it again).

    But I can't imagine ever throwing one in the trashcan!

    And, of course I have 84, Charing Cross Road on my "keeper" shelf. :)

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  9. I'm with Les. I would never, ever put a book in a trash bin. I'd give it to Goodwill, the library for their book sale,or give it to a friend. Other than that, I love the theory. :)

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  10. And she certainly didn't read many mediocre books. I can't remember a specific title right now, but the books she read are books most people read about - not books most people actually read.

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  11. What a lovely blog! Found you on the To Be Read List by Framed.

    I'm another book hoarder--with no room left on the shelves. I have books stashed under the bed, in closets, on tables--even a pile on my desk that I'm trying to convince myself to sell on eBay. They've been there at least a year :-)

    As a writer, I have the utmost respect for books and their authors. Letting such treasures go is almost impossible.

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  12. I loved reading all your passionate responses! Much like HH herself. :<) I have thrown away a couple books that I thought were bad to be in the world. Don't remember now what they were. I must have taken them right out of my mind. My shelves have many more unread books, than read and kept. I will keep forever certain ones, my old Faulkners and Hemingways and Fitzgeralds. My Wodehouse and Mortimer and EM Delafield and of course 84, Charing Cross Road. Oh, I'll stop with the list. :<)

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Now that I am a grandmother, it seems that I am often late in replying to your most-appreciated comments. But I read them as soon as they come in, and I will write as soon as I can. Please do come back and check. I love these blogging conversations. A little addendum - I've just spent quite a long time catching up with dear notes you left me months ago!! I do hope you can get back to read them. And I'm trying to be much more prompt now!

Also, you may comment on any post, no matter how old, and I will see it.