12 October 2009


I visited Radiance Tea House and Books recently, and have nothing but pleasant things to say about the place. (Okay, it's not dirt cheap, but otherwise, very pleasant.) It's in Midtown, on the same block as the R train, so that's a plus for me.

I came during a busy time, where most of the tables were taken though there was enough space for me; and I didn't feel crowded at all. It didn't seem loud at all either. It was really peaceful. You need that at a tea establishment. Plus, the staff is friendly, helpful, but not overly fussy. The perfect combination. I sat not far from a window by the street, but the closest view to me was the painting to my left "Eight Prized Steeds" which depicted men bringing horses as a tribute to court. The painter was a Giuseppe Castiglione. Apparently he was from Milan, but visited China during the Qing Dynasty. But this isn't Art Appreciation Class. Not today, anyway.

There is an Afternoon Tea on offer, but I decided to have the dumplings, which came with a salad that had a dressing so good I nearly ate the tomato. It was slightly citrusy, which gave it that fresh feel. The dumplings($10) were pleasing as well. I had this soupy pork bun dumpling that gushes in your mouth when you bite in it, somehow without spilling any.

My tea of choice was the Rainflower (First Grade), which was a green tea that was ever so slightly smoky and buttery.

Radiance also sells books (I had quite a few of the tea books in my home library, surprise surprise), as well as Asian-inspired clothes, and of course tea and teapots. I managed to control myself, but it's a great idea to have these items right there for those who would tend to be in the mood for them after the tea.

The bathrooms were clean and well appointed. That scores points for me always.

I had a lovely conversation with a woman at the next table, who is also a blogger, but I must have written her information down incorrectly. My loss, I guess.

A top NY Tea Location in my book. Two pinkies up, and the pinkie toes as well (though I don't think I'd mess with mine as they've both been broken before.)

05 October 2009



Your ad in the Saturday Review of Literature says that you specialize in out-of-print books. The phrase "antiquarian booksellers" scares me somewhat, as I equate "antique" with expensive. I am a poor writer with an antiquarian taste in books and all the things I want are impossible to get over here except in very expensive rare editions...

I enclose a list of my most pressing problems. If you have clean secondhand copies of any of the books on the list, for no more than $5.00, will you consider this a purchase order and send them to me?

This letter, written on October 5, 1949 in a Manhattan brownstone, began a twenty year relationship between book lover and bookseller. It also formed the beginning of the book 84. Charing Cross Road. And this happens to be one of my favorite books.

I'm writing about this today because, in case you didn't do the math, this letter was written 60 years ago today. Also noteworthy (to me, anyway) is that the writer, Helene Hanff, happened to be my age when she penned it (typed it, more likely.) This is hard to imagine when you watch the movie and see the quite middle-aged Anne Bancroft playing the part of the script reader/writer. It's hard to imagine Helene Hanff watching The Graduate, and thinking "she should play me when I was younger". Ha.

Anyway, though I share a few things in common with Hanff - loving all kinds of books, especially English Literature; no discernible romantic relationships; a fondness for Central Park; affinity for over sized shoulder bags - our lives aren't exactly parallel. It's kind of rare to develop friendships with booksellers in other countries nowadays. Amazon, and similar sites, are really impersonal, even if you can review your purchases. Then again, Helene Hanff did not have Library Thing. You take the good, you take the bad...

Either way, here's to the 60-year old beginning of a beautiful friendship.