Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Shakespeare & Co, part deux

Click on images for enlarged views.

I posted about Shakespeare & Co in the first post on this blog back in April 2006. Don't confuse this bookstore with the bookstore chain in NYC that is not connected but borrowed the name. My daughter happened upon it this summer.

This one is across the Seine from the Notre Dame cathedral on the Left Bank. Mr. George Whitman is a character and a half in his 90s who has lived in Paris most of his life. He owns this quirky bookstore and keeps it as earthy and vibrant as he seems to keep himself. (Does he really "trim" his hair with flames from a candle?)

George Whitman (photo from the Shakespeare & Co website)

If you click and enlarge this image of a blackboard, you can read what George Whitman has written.

He and his daughter Sylvia run the place. They invite nomadic writers and students to sleep in a bed upstairs and sweep up or tidy piles of books for their keep (and you must read a book a day).

They also invite famous writers to read from their works, Henry Miller among them some time ago.

In May 2006 I visited the bookstore as I do whenever I visit Paris. This time I joined a poetry group upstairs for a reading. The stairs are treacherous. There were probably 30 people in this little room. The pew I sat on against the wall was falling apart. I met a film attorney from LA who said she'd come speak to our film students, and listened to some terrific poetry.

Upstairs room for readings

Cecilia Woloch and a group of her poetry fans and students. (Click on her name and read a poem or two on her site; she's very good.)


rauf said...

You thought of taking a picture of the blackboard Ruth, that is imagination. It takes years to creat such an atmosphere. How delightful ! I love the picture of the red chairs. You have created such an atmosphere in your blog Ruth.

Ruth said...

Thank you, Rauf. It was G. Whitman's imagination that captured my attention on that blackboard. What he wrote is so full of artistic beauty, just like every corner of his shop. No wonder it draws many of us back and back. It is real and lived in, full of life. Every worn bookcover, worn stair, crowded table and corner shows a willingness to let life in and watch it improve with age. And it is full of people. That must make him happy.

Ginnie said...

All these images on the page and in my mind! I love the books that Donica bought me there--all the time it took her to find the right ones--and the S&C stamp inside each that is a gift in and of itself. I can certainly see why you go back there every time you're in Paris! I would go back for those treacherous stairs alone. If I walked up and down them, I would like to think every soul before me got absorbed into me somehow. My, what history!

Ruth said...

Ginnie, places like this are a treasure, and there are just a few of them, don't you think? All the right elements are there in that place, and the spirit of it all seems to be the most important.

Rauf said...

Ruth I was surprised to know that there are 75 thousand Americans permanantly settled down in Paris

Rauf said...

I posted this comment without any problem, Typed the word verification, pressed on preview. Preview box appears in yellow, click on publish. No problem

Ruth said...

Rauf, has this not been the case at Paris Deconstructed?

I only switched Synchronizing to google/beta, so I think PD is still pretty open and not as security-conscious.

Yes, that's a lot of Americans in Paris!

Rauf said...

Ruth Both your blogs are beta
My task bar says
Blogger beta: Paris d.....

this one is taking time its my 3rd attempt, last night it just went smooth.

ruth said...

Rauf, oh, I see. Yes, I guess my account is beta now, including both blogs. Thank you for taking the extra effort to comment. I hope they will work out the kinks soon.

merlinprincesse said...

For me, this is paradise! My father was an old-books dealer, my sis (Clo) is and my my bro too. I am the black sheep of the family. :) But I LOVE to read! I could be in a place like this for hours! :) Thanks for the visit!

Ruth said...

MP, how fun! Old books are great, my dad had a lot too, but never sold any. Well, your family can't all be book dealers; someone has to read!

I hope you can to go S & Co in person someday. It is such a treat.