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Books  >   Biographies and Memoirs : Arts and Literature : Authors : 

Old Books, Rare Friends : Two Literary Sleuths and Their Shared Passion


Main Street Books
Published:June 1, 1998

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Like 84, Charing Cross Road, Leona Rostenberg and Madeleine Stern's charming bibliocentric memoir is as much about relationships as it is about books. Charing Cross chronicled the decades-long epistolary friendship between American book lover Helene Hanff and Frank Doel, the equally devoted British bookseller in the London shop from whom she bought many of her treasures. Rostenberg and Stern's book once again proves how a passion for great literature can make for fast friends. And in their case, these two octogenarians occupy the same geographical space, sharing both their professional and private lives.

In their introduction, Rostenberg and Stern write: "Several readers inferred ... that our relationship was a Lesbian one. This was a misconception. The 'deep, deep love' that existed and exists between us ... has no bearing upon sex." With that out of the way early on, the two recount the stories of their lives in alternating sections. And oh, what lives they've had! From identifying some of Louisa May Alcott's previously anonymous early writings to traveling the world in search of rare volumes and pamphlets, they have done and seen it all. Successful antiquarian book dealers Rostenberg and Stern undoubtedly are, but as this memoir makes clear, their greatest accomplishment just might be that rarer commodity of friendship that lasts a lifetime. --Alix Wilber

Product Description:
When their friendship and business partnership began in the 1940s, Leona Rostenberg and Madeleine Stern were pioneers in a man's world. Now approaching their nineties, the duo, who -- among their many discoveries -- unearthed Louisa May Alcott's pseudonymous blood-and-thunder stories, remain a vibrant institution in the rare book trade, even as the Internet changes their field -- and their community -- forever.

After publishing Old Books, Rare Friends, Rostenberg and Stern received a flood of fan mail asking about their personal lives, and they have responded with rare honesty and warmth as they reflect on their lives and their remarkable partnership. Bookends recounts their fascinating histories -- family backgrounds, business adventures, the men they did not marry, and their approach to the bittersweet trials of aging. Yet, more than just a dual memoir, Bookends is also a chronicle of the cultural changes of twentieth-century American life, and a loving farewell to the golden age of book collecting. Filled with wisdom and humor, this volume is a tribute to Rostenberg and Stern's passion for the written word, and for life itself. Above all it is a heart-touching testament to enduring human friendship.

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