The Coolest Book I Ever Owned but Never Read
Barbara writes: Many years ago I was at the California Antiquarian Book Fair and I stumbled across a really nice leather-bound copy of Walter Savage Landor’s Imaginary Conversations from 1824. I wouldn’t have had the faintest idea who Landor was except that I had recently read Helene Hanff’s 84, Charing Cross Road and on page 5 up popped those Imaginary Conversations.
Let me just say, I adore 84, Charing Cross Road. If you’ve never read it (go get a copy right now!) it’s a series of letters between Helene Hanff in NYC and the bookstore Marks & Co. in London. It’s funny and charming and poignant and bursting with the love of English literature. But here’s the thing, Helen Hanff wasn’t a novel fan. For me English literature is Dickens and Austen; for her it was Leigh Hunt and William Hazlitt and, yes, Walter Savage Landor.
So, I bought the Landor and could barely wait to get home and read it. Cut to 20 years later. The darn thing was still sitting, unread, on my bookshelf. I wanted to like it. Every couple of years I would start reading a conversation and before I got even a couple of paragraphs in, my mind would wander and I would find myself thinking that maybe it was time to do a little vacuuming. And if you’d ever seen my carpets you’d know I almost never decide it’s a good time to do a little vacuuming.
Last month I decided to give Landor one last try. Heck, I was more mature (or at least older); maybe this would be the year I would finally appreciate Landor’s Imaginary Conversations. I even started with the one between Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn. Over the years I’ve read a lot of books about them; well novels actually, but still. No dice. Midway through the conversation I gave up and went and washed the dishes.
If you’re interested in a really nice leather-bound copy of Landor’s Imaginary Conversations I sold it to Book Alley in Pasadena. Enjoy reading it. I’m going back to my English Literature. Dickens, Austen and of course, Helene Hanff’s 84, Charing Cross Road.