Letter from New York – Helene Hanff (1992)


What a complete joy this little read was. It almost popped my socks off in its charming-ness, and I’d like everyone who reads this blog post to leave right now and get yourselves a copy somehow. It’s that lovely.

It’s a very quick read, understandable as it’s a collection of some five minute radio broadcasts that Hanff did on the BBC Radio’s Woman’s Hour during the 1980’s (after the publishing success of her earlier book, 84 Charing Cross Road. (Again, if you haven’t read the Charing Cross Road book, this epistolary true story of the friendship between Hanff and an English bookseller is super, and I highly recommend that you do.)

Anyway, each of these brief radio broadcasts tells about Hanff’s life in New York City, where she lived in a block of apartments, a place that she calls “community living” as many of the other tenants were also her friends and make appearances in her columns here. (Oh, and don’t forget the friends’ dogs. There are lots of dog stories in here, but not enough to cross it over into Crazy Dog Person Land.)

If you’re familiar with any of Hanff’s writing, you’ll know that she writes in a breezy optimistic style about the minutiae of living in New York as a self-employed writer. (Interestingly, there is not a lot of talk about her actual writing. Lots more focus on her life and what Hanff notices around her, which to me is a lot more fascinating in this particular case.) She’s very down-to-earth, has an interesting group of friends (with their dogs), and lives a full life of museum visits, concerts, and stories about her own particular neighborhood.

The columns are organized month by month and cover about three or four years, so the reader is taken through the seasons. She is such a good writer and really engages her reader in her slice-of-life descriptions as she recalls them here. I bet that this could fall into the epistolary category as well, as each column reads as though it is a letter from a favorite auntie (or similar) just to you. As you can probably surmise, I adored this quick read and think others of you might as well.

Seriously – one of my favorite reads so far this year.

6 thoughts on “Letter from New York – Helene Hanff (1992)

  1. Pingback: Suggested Summer Reading…. (Part One) | Just One More Page…

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