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A Smorgasbord of Bookstores With Personalities

LONDON Helene Hanff never did get to meet her bookseller pen pal, Frank Doel. But she did immortalize him in her book "84 Charing Cross Road."

To fans of her memoir and of its recent movie version, the London address of the copy cartier love bracelet steel Marks Co. shop where Doel worked is a shrine to the civilized joys of reading.

So it is unsettling for them to learn that the site of the legendary baby love bracelet cartier bookstore is now occupied by a record shop. That is a sad discovery made with some frequency.

However, if visitors look around, they will find consolations close at hand. First, the large Marks Co. street sign hangs inside the record store, its spiffy black and gold letters conjuring the past.

Second, Hanff's book is on sale there amid the rock CDs. Third, and most important, Marks Co. may be gone but Charing Cross Road is still paradise for book lovers.

Within the five blocks south of No. 84, scores of bookstores beckon, each with its own character and characters, specialties and bargains. For a devoted reader from the New World, the browsing experience is exhilarating.

After all, where else can you find a shop devoted to Islamic literature three doors away from one specializing in lesbian themes? With a wonderful art book shop and the outlet for the Oxford University Press in between?

Yet, be warned the experience can also be depressing. A visitor can be forced to confront how many good books there are to read, and how little time or money there is. That is compounded when one realizes that Charing Cross is only one of several book areas of London, along with Bloomsbury, Mayfair and suburban Hampstead.

Expert as Guide

I am a book lover. However, my friend and travel companion, Michael Blatty, is a self described bibliomaniac. He parlayed an interest in collecting rare editions of Shelley and Byron into opening a secondhand bookstore on Ventura Boulevard in Sherman Oaks, Calif.

The shop's name, not surprisingly, is Charing Cross Books. So under Mike's professional eye, I prowled the namesake street recently.

Charing Cross Road and the picturesque, auto free Cecil Court at its bottom prove the urban planner's axiom that proximity and competition is good for merchants and shoppers.

Even the well known Zwemmer's chain has four stores near the intersection of Litchfield Street. The one at 80 Charing Cross specializes in theater and movie books, another at 24 Litchfield has art books, 26 Litchfield is music, and the fourth, at 74 Charing Cross, has the classics and scholarly works published by Oxford University Press.

Next door, like a challenge to the British imperialism often bred at Oxford, is Al replica cartier love necklace gold Hoda, a newish shop of Islamic literature and political tracts.

And at 68 Charing Cross Road, like a challenge to Islam's traditional treatment of women, is Silver Moon Women's Bookshop, a collection of feminist and often lesbian themes. At No. 52, Books for a Change stocks titles about nuclear disarmament, ecology and human rights.

Visit those if they interest you, but do not miss Shipley Art Booksellers at No. 70 and Quinto Books at No. 48. Both reminded me of what a girlfriend of Hanff's once wrote to her about a visit to Marks Co.: "You smell the shop before you see it. It's a lovely smell. I can't articulate it easily, but it combines must and dust and age, and walls of wood and floors of wood."

The Flavor of Shipley

On a cool day, throw in the odor of a wood burning fireplace and you have the flavor of Shipley. An eclectic used and new collection ranged from "The Lithographic Works of Toulouse Lautrec" for only about $7.50 to a glossy book about the jewelry from Van Cleef Arpels for about $100. And in case you were wondering about "Military Architecture and Siege Warfare in 16th Century Siena," that was $32.

Quinto has the look and feel of the 1920s, down to its old glass windows and green painted wood. It has many first editions in fiction and history, and an enormous section on travel and exploration. The first edition of D. H. Lawrence's "The Virgin and the Gypsy" (1930) was selling for $52 and the original 1857 edition of David Livingstone's "Travels" through Africa was $67.

Browse down the street, past the Leicester Square tube station, and turn left onto Cecil Court, a lovely, stone paved alley with gas copy cartier love bracelet size 18 style street lamps; the atmosphere is distinctly Dickensian.

Cecil Court is a smorgasbord of 11 little book and print shops, often topical: one for the occult, another for nutrition and acupuncture, yet others for music, ballet and modern fiction.

Don't miss Pleasures of Past Times, at No. 11, a cheery collection of children's and show business books, along with antique style greeting cards and masks. It is a wonderful place to shop for gifts and chat about theater with owner David Drummond. A 1917 edition of Robert Louis Stevenson's "A Child's Garden of Verses," with woodblock prints, caught my eye at $15.
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