Paris News (from Jackson Hole)

The verit Shakespeare and Company


It snowed today in Jackson Hole and as I’m currently stuck inside, I was daydreaming about Paris. Today, the LA Times included a story about Shakespeare and Company—the venerable English language bookstore on Paris’s Left Bank and one of the best bookstores in the world:
The English-language bookstore on Paris’ left bank, Shakespeare and Company, has been a draw for generations of expatriate writers. That goes for both its first iteration, owned by Sylvia Beach, who was the original publisher of James Joyce’s “Ulysses,” and the more recent version, opened in 1951 by George Whitman. And those writers are rendered in portraits in a new mural in the shop, on the stairwell between the ground floor and the upstairs browsing/reading room.
On its website, Bomb Magazine has a slideshow of the mural’s creation, and an interview with the artist, Badaude (a.k.a. Joanna Walsh).

Shakespeare and Company Mural

Here’s the part that caught my attention. The mural is located on the stairwell between the ground floor and the upstairs browsing/reading room. I can’t wait to see this marvel of art in this extremely crowded—yet wonderful—space. First, on my recent visit, books were stacked, shelved and piled in almost every square inch of real estate in the store. A one-person corridor—let’s call it the train track—runs through the store and up the stairs. You queue up behind other shoppers and as the train moves forward you have a chance to stop and browse books when the person in front of you stops. If they need to bend over to reach a title near the floor, it may require you to back the train up behind you.

The mural will be at the back (left) of the shop in a stairwell so narrow and low that I felt the need to duck. However, no one lets the claustrophobic nature of Shakespeare and Company stop them from entering the hallowed space—the cramped quarters are part of its charm. I’m sure the mural will provide one more stop for the “train” going through.

Carolyn Kellogg, the LA Times writer, adds: “Today, the shop is run by George’s daughter Sylvia Whitman—George, now in his 90s, is mostly retired. It continues to offer events with French and American writers, like Jhumpa Lahiri and Mavis Gallant in June and Charles D’Ambrosio later this month.

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