|Shakespeare & Company, Paris|
s more time passes, I realize how strongly the Shakespeare and Company bookstore has affected me. When I discovered the Shakespeare & Co. Web site recently, with its "virtual visit" through the rooms, memories flooded back as fresh as if they were just weeks ago.
I lived at Shakespeare & Co. as a "Tumbleweed" for roughly six weeks of my 1980 summer. Our numbers varied from week to week and day to day: a motley assortment of transients from all over the world, each of us living out the Paris stage of our own private European picaresque. It was all word of mouth, of course, the fact that you could find a bed in this venerable literary institution overlooking the Seine, in exchange for a couple of hours work a day. Bookstore and library by day, after hours the upstairs rooms became simple dorms, the couches transformed into day-beds.
George Whitman presided, but was rarely seen. If he'd had trouble sleeping, he'd open the shop early, sitting behind the front desk sipping his iced tea from a chipped water glass, watching the city get underway through the open door. Early customers would be put to work setting things up outside: dragging boxes of books marked "10F" to be lined up beneath the window, propping up the cover of the "bouquiniste"-style display to form a makeshift shelter, accordian-folding the shutters that had covered the windows of the antiquarian annex just next door. Their reward would be some iced tea, shared out from George's own into a glass just as chipped, pulled from a dusty corner.
(October, 2007) Courtesy of another former tumbleweed, I offer fellow
& Company fans these links to additional Sh&Co material
on the Internet:
(December, 2005) I've posted a review of Jeremy Mercer's Time Was Soft There to the texts&pretexts website.
(October, 2005) There's a new book out from St. Martin's Press: Time Was Soft There: A Paris Sojourn at Shakespeare & Co., by Jeremy Mercer (British title will be the rather unfortunate Books, Baguettes & Bedbugs). You can read a bit more about Jeremy's book here; or follow the North American book tour on his blog. I'm looking forward to checking out the book for myself...
(October, 2005) Gonzague Pichelin of Zague.Zoo.Films notes that their documentary film on George Whitman & Shakespeare and Company, Portrait of a Bookstore as an Old Man, will be broadcast several times this month on the Sundance Channel. More information on the film can be obtained here; details on the broadcast dates is here.
(May, 2003) Shakespeare and Co. has a new website: http://www.shakespeareco.org/ - wherein you will find answers to many of the frequently asked questions, as well as details on an upcoming literary festival, "Lost Beat and New: Three Generations of Parisian Literary Tradition", taking place between June 9-16, 2003. They have a sort-of-archive online containing some of the articles which have been written about the store over the years.
(May 12, 2003) This recent entry in my web log looks fondly back at a long-time habitué of Shakespeare and Company: Beat poet Ted Joans.
(November, 2002) A recent Email from Gonzague Pichelin of Zague.Zoo.Films mentions that they are in the midst of producing a documentary film on George Whitman & Shakespeare and Company, entitled Portrait of a Bookstore as an Old Man.