I have been hopping all over the place, as far as books go this year. It seems one book leads to another leads to another leads to another. Between hearing about them on Instagram and Twitter, I have also been picking up titles through my reading of non-fiction titles. A lot of books are name-dropped in memoir and non-fiction, apparently. It’s been great to get all of these suggestions while reading.
It would be really difficult to pick a favourite in what I’ve read thus far this year. Last year had a CLEAR FAVOURITE in Nina Simone’s Gum by Warren Ellis.
I know I love a book when I immediately start selling it to other readers. I mentioned that book to whoever would listen. I bought a copy for my daughter before I even got to the end. I needed to have someone to talk to about it. So wondrous!
This year, so far, I have so many faves…I can’t narrow it down. A WAITER IN PARIS, APPARENTLY THERE WERE COMPLAINTS, REMEMBERINGS, REACHING NINETY, PURPLE HIBISCUS, SPECIAL DELUXE, MISSING FROM THE VILLAGE, JUST KIDS, TO BE A GAY MAN. I’d recommend all of these titles. It’s been a good year so far!
I can’t wait to see what avenues I wander down next. I have a list of candidates, thanks to the usual sources!
I have now been home from Paris about one and a half weeks. Paris never lasts long enough, does it?!
I thought that by bringing a great nugget of Paris home with me, I would somehow prolong my visit…if only in my head and in my heart. But like being given your favourite treats and attempting to make them last, I have now devoured the last of that great nugget I carried back across the pond with me.
The nugget of which I speak? A book. A tome I thought would last a little longer. A tome I devoured all too quickly!
Shakespeare & Company Paris: A History of the Rag & Bone Shop of the Heart. This is going down as THE most magical book I ever read. Read isn’t even right…it doesn’t cover what I did. I fell into this book. I immersed myself in this book. So divine, it was!
To think, Michael practically had to twist my arm to get me to buy it during our first visit this time around to the iconic and beautiful madhouse of books. There’s no place quite like Shakespeare & Company Bookstore at 37 Rue de la Bûcherie, Paris. I hemmed and I hawed. The price would put it somewhere in the vicinity of extravagant as a self-purchase and I really wrung my hands over it. Should I? Shouldn’t I? In the end, Michael prevailed. He talked me into purchasing the thing I MOST wanted to purchase in all the store.
I HAVE NO REGRETS. Such a beautiful rambling read through the history of my favourite international bookstore, which also, itself, has a tendency to ramble through space and time.
George Whitman was a formidable presence in the universe. I believed that before opening the book, and I know it now. He was a magician with a gravitational pull that rivaled the universe itself. He was the moon, orchestrating the tides of ‘Tumbleweeds’ in and out of his magical bookstore for decades.
I’ve loved Shakespeare & Company since I first learned about its first incarnation, created by Sylvia Beach and found originally at 8 Rue Dupuytren and then the bigger location at 12 rue de l’Odéon. George Whitman was the perfect successor of the name (Whitman changed the name of the current day Shakespeare & Company from Le Mistral in 1964, presumably with Ms. Beach’s blessing). He carried with him the same kind of generosity of heart and spirit as his predecessor.
Here’s the description of the book from Amazon:
A copiously illustrated account of the famed Paris bookstore on its 65th anniversary
This first-ever history of the legendary bohemian bookstore in Paris interweaves essays and poetry from dozens of writers associated with the shop–Allen Ginsberg, Anaïs Nin, Ethan Hawke, Robert Stone and Jeanette Winterson, among others–with hundreds of never-before-seen archival pieces, including photographs of James Baldwin, William Burroughs and Langston Hughes, plus a foreword by the celebrated British novelist Jeanette Winterson and an epilogue by Sylvia Whitman, the daughter of the store’s founder, George Whitman. The book has been edited by Krista Halverson, director of the newly founded Shakespeare and Company publishing house.
George Whitman opened his bookstore in a tumbledown 16th-century building just across the Seine from Notre-Dame in 1951, a decade after the original Shakespeare and Company had closed. Run by Sylvia Beach, it had been the meeting place for the Lost Generation and the first publisher of James Joyce’s Ulysses. (This book includes an illustrated adaptation of Beach’s memoir.) Since Whitman picked up the mantle, Shakespeare and Company has served as a home-away-from-home for many celebrated writers, from Jorge Luis Borges to Ray Bradbury, A.M. Homes to Dave Eggers, as well as for young authors and poets. Visitors are invited not only to read the books in the library and to share a pot of tea, but sometimes also to live in the bookstore itself–all for free.
More than 30,000 people have stayed at Shakespeare and Company, fulfilling Whitman’s vision of a “socialist utopia masquerading as a bookstore.” Through the prism of the shop’s history, the book traces the lives of literary expats in Paris from 1951 to the present, touching on the Beat Generation, civil rights, May ’68 and the feminist movement–all while pondering that perennial literary question, “What is it about writers and Paris?”
If you want to read an extraordinarily moving history of one of the world’s most astonishing bookstores, you need to have this book in your life. It would also make a fantastic present for the literary lover in your life. I know I’m going to cherish my copy forever. Now that I’ve read it, I know with certainty that is a book that will give me much joy in future re-readings. I could not put it down. Wandering through its pages felt much the same as wandering through the crooked little rooms and alcoves and mystery spaces splattered with books and things inside Shakespeare & Company itself.
Are writers the only breed who are constantly holding themselves accountable by making proclamations of what it is they plan on tackling next? Or do we all make lists, announce projects we plan to tackle, promise future achievements. I’m coming at this from a writer’s gaze, so I know we are guilty of doing this. We’re always tackling this, planning that, looking for ways to motivate ourselves forward into the next project and the next and the next and the next. Sometimes I think I’m just so lazy I need to strike fires under myself in order to get anything done.
I tend to believe that when a person actually says out loud that they will do something–announce it to the world at large even if no one else is listening–they tend to get it done. Or have better odds at accomplishing their goal, at any rate. Accountability is such a herculean thing with us writers. It’s why we talk among ourselves, outlining and planning our projects and tasks.
Today, I say I WILL write something for the 2019 CBC Non-Fiction Prize. This doesn’t quite make my entry inevitable, but it does give me a goalpost to shoot for, with a definite finish-line in mind. You can’t get any more definitive than a writing contest deadline. February 28, 2019 at 11:59 PM (ET). That’s the deadline for this particular contest.
SO, announcing my intention solidifies my horse in the race. It’s the way we writers motivate ourselves. We say I WILL.
I feel like the people over at CBC are throwing shade at us writers. I feel like THEY KNOW US. With each of their writing contests, they set up a newsletter for potential entrants to subscribe to in order to get motivation personally delivered to their inboxes throughout the weeks leading up to the deadline. Scandalous. I feel both SEEN and SHADED by this newsletter. Here’s the announcement for it from the CBC site:
“Want help?” they say. What they’re actually saying is probably more along the lines of, “We know you say you’re going to enter the contest but do you have the motivation required to see this through to the end? Probably not. Let us keep reminding you to stay on task. Let US be your motivation.”
Thank you, CBC…for SEEing us writers. We appreciate your accountability tactics. Now, if you’ll excuse me…I’m off to subscribe to a certain newsletter that shall remain nameless.