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Paris in the Spring.

27 Mar 2009 / 0 Comments / in Tales, Short & Tall

Shakespeare & Co. Paris France

It ain’t really all that it’s cracked up to be…at least not weather wise. Cold and rainy and cold and windy, but hey, it’s Paris, and I’m OK with that.

Mainly cause it keeps the vast majority of tourists out of here for another few weeks, which meant I only spent 10 minutes (or so) waiting to get into the d’Orsay…which ruled. Cause come May — and certainly by June — that line is an easy hour.

I hit Shakespeare & Co. first thing each and every time I come to Paris. It’s the bookstore I love to hate. But I really don’t hate it.

As it stands now, this is not where Sylvia Beach published James Joyce; in fact, the original store owned by Beach was closed by WWII. Beach did give George Whitman permission to use the name, and the first time I went to Paris (May of 97) George was behind the counter, and I gave him a few copy of Blessing Poems, The Mollifier, and maybe The Man With The Buzzer in his Throat.

“If you want to put a few of these on your shelf, I’d appreciate it. And you don’t have to pay me anything for them…just take them, and if you actually sell them, that’s great.”

George looked at them, and he thanked me, and then he asked, “Would you like to stay here? I’ve got some room for you upstairs.”

It’s true. Up in his lending library he maintained a few beds where he let people crash. Still happens to this day.

I was very grateful, but I passed. I had a place nearby. The idea certainly appealed to me, though, and I wish I woulda taken him up on it now. But I didn’t.

George is in his mid-nineties now, and he’s retired, and his daughter — Sylvia Beach Whitman — runs the joint. Which is why I say it’s the store I love to hate. Cause she’s turned it into a trendy tourist attraction. When I walked in yesterday, there was a photographer snapping pics of Sylvia Whitman, while one of her employees played piano to the oogling tourists…who have no idea about George, or the store’s history, or Sylvia Beach.

I sound like a book snob. And an asshole. Besides, the place is way cleaner than it was the first time I shopped there, and the rare book room really has rare books in it; I bet the store does better than it ever has, so I’ll shut the fuck up.

And talk about the booksellers on the Seine.

Cause I love them.

They set up shop right there on the Seine in these little green lock box / kiosks. Some of them peddle silly trinkets like little plastic Eiffel Tower statues and t-shirts; others have really interesting books and records. Some peddle porn, comics, and plates from from old books; there’s vellum pages from Bibles Monks copies by hand and great old French jazz magazines.

I want to sell books out of one of those little green kiosks along the Seine, where I can sip lattes all day long while I watch the girls walk along the river.

Seine Bookseller

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