Thursday, October 9, 2008

Letter from New York - Book Review

Letter from New York
By Helene Hanff
Harper Collins 1992

A Book of short talks written by Helene Hanff for the BBC Woman's Hour Broadcasts.

In the summer of 1978 Helene was asked by a BBC producer to broadcast a series of short talks for the "Woman's Hour" program.
What would I talk about, Helene asked?
Life in New York City, said the Producer. I want you to talk about your everyday life to the "Womans Hour" Audience. Can you do that?
I dont see why not, Helene replied.
Five minutes once a month, said the Producer. We're willing to try it for 6 months.
The 6 months turned out to be 6 years.
From 1978 to 1984 Helene wrote and broadcast a series of short talks all about life in New York City.

These chats are just as humorous as her books are. Stories about how she held all the spare keys to the other apartments on her floor, how she crashed a wedding when she was recovering from cataract surgery and couldnt see anything, about the cat across the road who put on a show for the neighbours because her owners were out and the cat was stuck in the curtain cords by the window, stories about the history of NYC.

Stories about Halloween, Thanksgiving, Xmas, New Years. Do you realise that in USA that's one celebration per month for 4 months in a row? Canada doesnt have that - we have 2 celebrations in October and none in November. This weekend is Thanksgiving weekend in Canada. Monday 13th will be a holiday.

Helene wrote 84 Charing Cross Road around 1971 in USA. It went on to become a huge bestseller in England. So by 1980, various people in UK were turning it into a play, and in 1981 Helene made the trip to London to see the official opening of the play. She mentions this in a couple of her talks.

There are stories about Central Park in summer and winter, shopping for clothes, various neighbourhood dogs and their personalities, a story being an author instead of a playwright, a story about Los Angeles and Hollywood. Helene even mentions the details of how to be a delegate at the 1976 Democratic National Convention. Helene had a friend who was a delegate to that convention. Helene was a die-hard Democratic herself and she even belonged to a Democratic club.

I wonder what Helene would think of the presidency race this year.

Anyway....In 1991 Helene mentioned these broadcast scripts to another publisher friend and the friend asked to see them. She wrote back saying she loved them and wanted to make them into a book. So they were published in a book called Letter from New York in 1992.

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