Art and the philosophy of life

Posts tagged ‘Shakespeare and Company’


Image result for free picture of sylvia beach and shakespeare and company

Sylvia and Adrienne


“How was tea?”

“Delicious, thank you,”  said Ms Beach

“I think it’s a great idea to start a mail service, so American’s can have their mail sent to the shop, where they can pick it up.  There’s a nice cubby right over there, so I freshened it up, while you were gone, so you can use it for that purpose.”


“You’re brilliant.”

“I am?”

“Maybe someday, when this store is kitty-corner from Notre Dame, your books will be stamped with a SHAKESPEARE AND COMPANY rubber stamp on the first page.  People will love that because they love you and this place.  Book bags will have your logo on them.”

“I doubt that and what’s a book bag?”

“Hemingway hits women.”

“He does?”

“Yes, but you’ll like him anyway.  That’s how men get away with the terrible things they do. People are too forgiving and that allows men to keep hurting women.  It’s sick.

I just wish you would get to know Scott better.  Maybe the Murphys’ as well but you won’t.  It’s not your fault.  Scott and Zelda aren’t around that much and when they are they spend time with Gerald and Sara.  Gerald and Sara aren’t around the bookstore at all.  But they totally changed the world.  Huge supporters of the arts and generous beyond belief.  They’re part of this whole scene.  Picasso hates women.  You can see that very clearly in is work.  He uses them but hates them at the same time.  He liked Sara but then everyone fell in love with her.  At least that’s what everyone said.

This is the period of time I’ve always wanted to live in.  If I did, however, I’d probably be poor and doing someone’s laundry.  You know how that goes.  Be careful what you wish for.  But Paris was the place to be, even if the people inventing the future didn’t realize it.  But that’s the thing, isn’t it?  We can’t ever see what we’re doing, when we’re doing it.  We can only see what happened after the fact, when we’re looking backward.  I mean, you had no idea that you would change the future by opening this bookstore.”

“You have an active imagination.”

“Thank you.”

“I’m not sure that was a compliment.”

“It was.”

“I like the way you rearranged the window.”

“Thank you.  So many books will be written about this place.  You’re a brave and amazing woman Ms Beach and this is a dream come true.  To meet you and be here in this incredible shop.”

“My dear girl.  I have no idea what you’re talking about but Adrienne sent cookies for you.  She’s the one who encouraged me to move to this site.  I was around the corner and this shop became available, so now I’m across the street from her.  The shop is larger and I’m quite happy with it.  Customers can buy books in French from Adrienne and books in English from me.”

“Many people say that Hemingway never ran with the bulls.”


“Never mind.  I just wish you wouldn’t like him but that’s the way life goes.”

“I like everyone.”

“I know.  You are a gentle and lovely person.  I’m glad you live in this time slot because you’d be eaten alive in the future.”

“Oh, my.”

“This is a cell phone.  It’s a camera, a computer, and everything else you can imagine.  It does math, it can get you where you want to go, you can play games on it, listen to music, write to people, send pictures and you can read books on it.  It doesn’t work here because there are no towers.”

Sylvia picked up the cell phone.  “This tiny thing can do all of that?”

“It can.”

“Books are in there?”

“They are.”

“There’s a man looking in the window.”

“It’s Hemingway.  He’s hungry, broke, and you’re going to give him a list of books to read and he’ll read everyone of them.  You’ll lend them to him because you’ll see something in him and want to encourage him, even though he’s insensitive and cruel.  He wasn’t nice to Scott either and Scott helped him get started.  He uses people but you’ll do it anyway, because that’s just who you are.  Here’s a list of all the books he’s going to write before he kills himself on July 2nd, 1961.”

The bell tinkled and Hemingway walked in, a smile on his face.   Sylvia smiled back.








Shakespeare and Company…a short story…for Becky, at PLATFORM NUMBER 4, who suggested I write something about this.

Image result for free picture of sylvia beach and shakespeare and company

“Ms Beach, I’d like to work for you.”

“Well, that’s very nice, I’m sure, but I can’t afford to hire anyone.”

“I’ll work for books and maybe a sandwich, now and then.”

“Oh, my dear.  I couldn’t let you do that.”

“Please.  This is my dream job.  I’d be happy to work for free.”

“But I’ve only just opened the shop.  How will you live?”

“I’ll manage, believe me.  I have savings.”


“You’re going to be more famous than you can possibly imagine.  Everyone who loves books, will know your name and the amazing things you did.”

“Now you’re just being silly.”

“I’m not.  Trust me.”

“You can sort the books on the table over there,” she said, pointing to the stacks and I’ll pay you what I can.”

“Thank you.”

“Do you speak French?”

“Non.  But I will learn.”

“I’m going across the street to talk to…”

“Adrienne Monnier.”

“Have you been to her shop?”

“Not yet.”

“I see.”

“And Gertrude Stein sucks,”  I said, more loudly than I had intended.

“I beg your pardon,” said Ms. Beach, taken back.

“She’s a bully and an egomaniac, so don’t be fooled by her.  She wants people, well artists and writers really, to be her lap dogs, until they disagree with her.  Then she kicks them to the curb.  Her partner is her guard dog who answers the door and decides who gets to see her and who doesn’t.  The wives are led to another room, while the guys get an audience.  Be happy she won’t bother you.”

“Do you know her?”

“Not personally.  I’ve read a lot about her.”


“In books that for you, haven’t been written yet.  And, a guy named Hemingway will write stories that were lived by others, but he will say he lived them himself.  Well, some of them anyway. Another gigantic ego. He cheats on his wife all the time too.”


“Ernest.  You’ll be meeting him soon.”

“I will?”

“Yes.  He’ll borrow books and you’ll be happy to let him do that.”

“I will?”

“You will.  Everyone will be broke.  And someone named James Joyce will come into your life.  You’ll see a lot of him.  Bad eyesight but you’ll work together for quite some time.  He’s broke too, but manages to live very well.  You’ll love him.  You are the hub that everything revolves around.  Or you will be.  I just want to watch it all happen.”

“I’m going to tea.  Dust up a bit after you shelve the books.”


“We can talk when I return.”

“Looking forward to it, believe me.”

“Yes, well.  This is all very strange.”

“I know. It really is.  And you might want to think about taking your sign in at night, so people don’t keep stealing it.”

“Why would someone steal my sign.”

“Uh, not sure.  It’s just a suggestion.”

“If you need me…”

“Yes, I know where you’ll be.  You’re smaller than I thought you’d be, you know.”

“I am?”

“But you’re as charming and delightful as everyone said.”

“Who said?”

“The people you’re going to meet.”

“How do you know all these things?”

“I’m from the future.”

“I’ll be back later,” said Ms. Beach, shaking her head.

“Have fun.  I’ll watch the shop.”








Books…Shakespeare and Company…2 photographs


Almost finished with it, just a few more pages.  I skipped some of the beginning because it’s about George Whitman’s early life and I don’t really care about that.  I’m more interested in the bookstore, than in his travels around the world as a young man.  The kindness shown to him by strangers, while he did travel around the world, made him the open and generous person he became and that was good enough for me.  There are a few pages about Sylvia Beach, the woman who opened the original Shakespeare and Company.

There is a comic strip in the beginning of the book about Sylvia Beach and Hemingway. The story, according to Hemingway’s bio,  is supposed to be false.  He did drive up to the shop, after the war, and he did scream for Sylvia but she had moved and did not run down the stairs  and fall into his arms.  I don’t know which story is true but after reading about all the lies Hemingway constantly told, it’s hard to believe anything he ever said.

George Whitman was a character, to put it mildly.  Single minded and a man with a vision.  A vision he made come true.

The book is a actually a giant scrapbook, filled with pictures, letters, art, poems, biographies of the Tumbleweeds (those who stayed at the shop, for whatever length of time, and had to write a bio as the price of staying there…they also had to work in the shop a couple hours a day). The book consists of bits and pieces of Whitman’s life and the life of the shop.   Calls for stories from friends, artists, writers, poets, customers and Tumbleweeds went out to everyone, and their stories and memories are part of the book and add to the overall understanding of the shop under George’s reign.

Shakespeare and Company is fun and beautifully made.  The layout is whimsical, with different colored pages, fonts, and surprises popping up here and there.  The paper is thick and tough, kind of like the bookstore itself.  George’s daughter Sylvia, named after Sylvia Beach, runs the shop today.  Her life as a child, living in the bookstore, must have been interesting beyond belief.

Sylvia Beach and George Whitman, the person she allowed to use the name Shakespeare and Company, were more than just booksellers, they were in love with, and passionate about, literature, learning, sharing, mentoring, and gathering knowledge, to pass on to others.  They were generous beyond belief and constantly gave of themselves to the creative community.

Shakespeare and Company is a unique and magical place (cats live there).  It’s impossible for those who love the bookstore, to see past the glamour, to the actual bricks and mortar.  The magic has been created by the people who love the shop and it has become alive and real.  I’ve been fortunate enough to visit twice but the second you leave, you long to return.  The books call to us, the pages, flaunt their printed words, flash their drawings, whisper their poetry.  All the conversations, the stories, that have taken place within it’s walls have soaked into the wood and plaster and keep the magic going.  It’s a place where the people, customers and staff alike, truly want to BE there. That’s the real magic of Shakespeare and Company…you never want to leave, you never want to be anywhere but there.

See, franchise bookstores have no heart.  They don’t carefully hand pick books with love, they have stock and diagrams that show there where the books HAVE to be set up.  No individuality or thinking outside the box.  The people who work in franchise shops are doing their jobs, not dedicating their lives to books. They don’t own the store, it’s not their life, they just work there.  The difference can be felt.  Sylvia Beach and George Whitman were their bookshops.  The shops were an extension of themselves and that’s what makes the difference.   They made the choices and decisions about the shop and their books, not some corporate, nameless, faceless drones.

George’s daughter brought Shakespeare and Company up to date.  She put in a PHONE, computer, etc., made some physical and extremely necessary improvements, but she kept the soul and bones of the place.  I can’t wait to see the cafe when I go there next time.

I enjoyed the book and recommend it to anyone who is interested in stories about George Whitman and Shakespeare and Company from 1919 to the present day.  The thing is, the book is written by others. Even Whitman’s notes are to himself, not to us, so there’s a little something cool and detached about the book. Like looking in from the outside.  George Whitman never speaks to us directly, so we only get to know him through the words of other people.  I would have liked to have read what he was thinking when he was making his dream come true.


To know the original Shakespeare and Company first hand, there is only one book and it’s this one…written by Sylvia Beach herself.  It’s truly wonderful.  I highly recommend it to anyone who loves this bookstore.  She was an incredible woman.  A superhero who made a real difference in the world. img_6756




Book!!!!! Shakespeare and Company…


It came in the mail yesterday and I’m SOOOOOO excited to read it.  It looks wonderful.  I’m currently reading a bunch of book at the same time but I might just put all of the aside and read this one.  I’ll let you know how it is but just paging through it…well…I’m in love. I want to carry it around with me and never put it down…well except when I’m in the shower, of course…taking it into the shower would just be silly, but I could put it on the floor or counter where I could still see it through the door, right?

Quote from the opening  page:

This is no book;
Who touches this,
touches a man;
(Is it night?
Are we here alone?)
It is I you hold,
and who holds you;
I spring from the
Pages into your arms…

Walt Whitman


Blogger, Miguel Olmedo Morell, said there was a new book coming out on Shakespeare and Company, so I looked it up immediately.  Here’s the scoop:

A History of the Rag and Bone Shop of the Heart

384 pages
$26.62 on Amazon

Looks fantastic

Comes out the beginning of September

Shakespeare and Company…Paris

Can’t wait to go back….

Shakespeare and Company…

Paris, France

Shakespeare and Company

Paris, France

Try not to notice the book in the window, “Prison Love,”  LOLOLOL

Shakespeare and Company, Paris,France

One of my very favorite places.

Tag Cloud

%d bloggers like this: