Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Over the weekend I finished Time Was Soft There by Jeremy Mercer. Mercer was a journalist and author who fled Canada after receiving a death threat and found himself in Paris with no money and no prospects. Which is when he started living at Shakespeare and Company among other itinerant writers. The book is about his time spent living there, the people he encountered, and the history of the modern incarnation of this historic bookstore and of its idiosyncratic owner, George Whitman. George was in his eighties by the time Mercer arrived, but still going strong, charming the ladies, hosting weekly tea parties for customers and residents alike, and making plans for the future. Mercer quickly became George's second in command and through him we see the day to day life of living and working at the bookstore and his struggle to eke out a living. It's a fairly straightforward and unromantic vision of Paris, but he doesn't keep all the magic out. Or maybe that was just me imagining how much fun it would be to live in a bookstore (although preferably without the pervasive smell of cat pee, which Claire tells me is a permanent fixture there).

I was actually hoping for more history on the original Shakespeare and Company bookstore, but I suspect I'll have to find one specifically about the expat literary scene in the 1920's for that. Any suggestions?

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