Underfoot in Show Business by Helene Hanff

I don’t know what took me so long to get around to reading it, but Helene Hanff’s Underfoot in Show Business is now my second favorite Helene Hanff book (Hanff is the author of the more well-known 84, Charing Cross Road). Thank you so much for sending it to me, Citizen Reader, I love it. That chapter which ends with Alfred Drake taking the stage to sing, “Oh what a beautiful morning,” made me cry.

It describes a New York that’s both long gone and still exists. The theatre has lost it’s place of prominence in New York, although it still has its moments, and the great writers now seem to be working in TV (something that started to happen in Hanff’s time). But there’s still that urge towards great art, and creative people still struggle the way they struggled in her book, finding all sorts of ways to find shelter, eat, and get dressed.

It is making me fall in love with the City all over again. I’m also so happy with the handwritten inscription. After Helene Hanff’s, which begins “To the Reader,” someone named Molly wrote this:

To this particular reader:

Thank you for bringing me and Helene together, two souls who love the big city, books and show biz —

New York
June 1982

I’m not making this up, but the book proposal I’m working on mentions the fact that when I’m buying used books I looks for books with personal touches like this. I wonder who Molly is. Is she in show biz? Did she make it? 1981 is the year I moved back to the City after college, so we would have been starting out at roughly the same time. What happened to her??

Miles Swum So Far in City Lap Swim Contest: 28 + 111 laps.

Stacy’s Law: If you’re downtown walking dogs, I cannot resist taking a picture of you.

Dog Walkers, New York City

Stacy Horn

I've written six non-fiction books, the most recent is Damnation Island: Poor, Sick, Mad, and Criminal in 19th-Century New York.

View all posts by Stacy Horn →

3 thoughts on “Underfoot in Show Business by Helene Hanff

  1. I’m SO glad you liked it, Stacy, I loved it too, and its every bit of “Helene-ness.”

    I ordered it sight unseen so I couldn’t be more pleased with the inscription, either. Fun!

    And please get working on that book proposal, I can’t wait for a new book from you, complete with all its “Stacy-ness”!

  2. p.s. nice dog picture.

    I always had the dream of trying to track down Helene’s books/personal library–especially since she described most of the books she bought from Charing Cross Road so lovingly. But how would you even start a project like that?

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