List Price: $ 10.95
Save 14 % off List Price
Imagined London : A Tour of the World's Greatest Fictional City
Anna Quindlen first visited London from a chair in her suburban Philadelphia home. "'The city streets were filled with fog and the cobbled pavers were slightly slick with moisture, so that the man and woman struggling down the street slid on its surface. It was just after the war, and some of the buildings were empty holes left over from the blitz.' The book describing this was by Patricia Wentworth, one of a series of mystery novels she wrote that wind up always, inevitably, in the capital, at the cozy flat of the essential English spinster." Quindlen has been to London countless times since, in the pages of books. From Dickensian London, rich with narrow alleyways and jocular street vendors, to the London of Conan Doyle and Margery Allingham, with its salt-of-the-earth police officers and crowded train stations. She visited Victoria Station, Hyde Park, Soho, and Kensington in her imagination long before ever setting foot in the city. By the time Quindlen actually visited London in 1995, it was less like an introduction and more like a homecoming.
This latest entry in National Geographic's series of famous writers on famous cities is like the British dish bubble and squeak: a hash of thrown together bits and pieces that might be tasty but isn't very filling. An avid reader, Quindlen (Living Out Loud, etc.) developed an acute case of literature-induced Anglophilia at an early age. As a precocious youngster, she was enchanted by the terrace houses, green squares and horse-drawn carriages of the written worlds of Daniel Defoe, William Makepeace Thackeray, Charles Dickens and Henry James's London. Later swept away by Virginia Woolf and the Mitford sisters, Quindlen doesn't actually visit London until her mid-40s while on a trip to promote one of her own books. Quindlen's narrative essays, while thematic, lack enough specific locations to make them consistently interesting. While she comments on the extraordinary fact that one can still find one's way around London based on 18th-century literary plot points, she doesn't take explicit literary tours herself, leaving readers to wonder to what extent the expectations of a lifelong love affair with the London of her mental library are met. Instead, Quindlen shifts the focus away from herself and toward her experience of traveling with her 20-something writer son, comparing and contrasting their generational impressions of the city. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information. -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
There are no customer reviews available at this time. Would you like to write a review?
January 17, 2006
Number of Print Pages*
Adobe DRM EPUB
* Number of eBook pages may differ. Click here for more information.
Excerpt from Imagined London by Anna Quindlen
On a rather mild early spring morning in 1995, a taxi pulled up to one of the low flat-faced old buildings that make up most of the block of Dean Street just north of Shaftesbury Avenue in London. The driver was perturbed. From the moment he had pulled out of the terminal at Heathrow Airport, he had tried to convince his passenger that no woman would want to be dropped off, suitcase in hand, at the address she had given at 8 a.m. on a Sunday. As he unloaded her luggage from what she called his trunk and he called his boot, he squinted with unconcealed hostility at the front of the house and the small sign that identified it as the Groucho Club, so named because the writers and journalists and other non-clubby types who'd founded it liked the idea, expressed in the words of Groucho Marx, of never belonging to a place that would have them as a member.
There was no one on the street, and no one immediately visible behind the desk in the club, for that matter. The neighborhood was a nighttime neighborhood, a neighborhood of long dinners out and shutting down the pubs and streets crowded at midnight, so that sometimes you had to step off the curb to go on your way. And it had the sad and tired and slightly disreputable look that all such neighborhoods have on a Sunday morning, that look of the morning after the night before, the look of a full ashtray or a wineglass with dregs and a ring of blood red around the bottom, the look that a dress removed in haste after a party has on the floor of your bedroom in the bright sunlight. It had the look of a place in which everyone slept on Sundays until at least noon.
"Soho," the driver had said, and there was the sound of a curled lip in his broad British tones. He might as well have said "Sodom."
"A mistake's been made," he added before he slammed shut the hatch to his trunk, or boot, and drove off on the lookout for more sensible passengers.
But there was no mistake. An attendant who appeared to be slightly hungover, or at least very tired, produced a room key from behind the desk of the club. The small lobby outside the bar smelled strongly of cigarette smoke, and there was no lift. No lift, she thought to herself, and her heart thumped, not at the notion of hauling heavy suitcases up narrow stairs, which turned out to be a pain by the second landing, but because she had managed to use the word lift without thinking twice about it. Lift. Loo. Treacle. Trifle. As she thump-thumped up the stairs, like Christopher Robin dragging Pooh by the leg, only much more arduously, she silently practiced her English. Trainers. Waistcoats. Salad rolls.
The room was extremely small, exactly the sort of snug and vaguely uncomfortable place in which people who do not write imagine writers writing. If she had tried to write there, it would have had to be on the bed, which took up most of the available space. There was a bathroom shoehorned into one corner of the room--or was it more properly called a loo? Or just the bath, in the fashion of the Mitford sisters?--with a toilet in which, she could not help feeling every time she looked at it, shamefaced at being so obviously American, there was far too little water. The electrical sockets looked highly unfamiliar, and again there was that thump from within. She had purchased an adapter! She could convert the current!