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Books, Baguettes & Bedbugs – Jeremy Mercer

ExcitementFoodInfestations‘Shakespeare and Company’ in Paris is one of the world’s most famous bookshops. The original store opened in 1921 and became known as the haunt of literary greats, such as Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, George Bernard Shaw, Ezra Pound, Gertrude Stein and James Joyce.

Sadly the shop was forced to close in 1941, but that was not the end of ‘Shakespeare and Company’… In 1951 another bookshop, with a similar free-thinking ethos, opened on the Left Bank and, in 1964, it resurrected the name ‘Shakespeare and Company’ and became the principal meeting place for Beatnik poets, such as Allen Ginsberg and William S. Burroughs, through to Henry Miller and Lawrence Durrell.

Today the tradition continues and writers still find their way to this bizarre establishment, one of them being Jeremy Mercer. With no friends, no job, no money and no prospects, the thrill of escape from his life in Canada soon palls but, by chance, he happens upon the fairytale world of ‘Shakespeare and Co’…

This is my first book review since June 9th, as strange as that sounds so apologies to all if I am a bit rusty at it.

Having just recently come back from being away, it is perhaps somewhat predictable that my thoughts would be on far away (or not in this case) destinations so my first review is of a travel book but in a cunning reversal, it is of a traveller crossing the opposite way over the Atlantic.

Mercer opens the book talking about the type of life he had as a crime reporter and how the job affected him.  By allowing himself to be consumed with his journalistic work, his life choices became somewhat dubious and by choosing to leave that behind, he is able to look at his past mistakes with candour and clarity.

Finding his way to Shakespeare & Company soon enough is one heck of a backdrop for any book, a seeming ideal place for artists to do there work, as legend has it.  It’s a setting that attracts wanderers and the lost and holds plenty of eccentricities down to its primitive toilet and the unconventional owner George, who invites people to stay on a whim.

Drifters and dreamers inhabit the shop, all of whom are characters and few ever seem to get anything creative down on paper.  There is a camaraderie to the communal life, as all are sharing the kindness of strangers and beds in amongst the books.  Life lacks romance for the cash strapped dwellers but that in itself is the allure for the rest of us who aren’t experiencing it.  Looking at the actual day-to-day routine of Mercer’s new friends, it is hard not to feel like they are wasting their time when they have this opportunity to write but the struggle to stave off hunger and bad hygiene is a time-consuming one, as is the need for a bottle of wine or two. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on 22/07/2016 in Life, Travel

 

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Plymouth and Narcotics

Saturday found me sat in the park on my own with about 20% worth of battery that I had been saving up )thanks to the charger breaking_ so I could ring my aunty and uncle who live locally.  They ended up taking me out to Plymouth, which was the site of the landing of everyone’s favourite puritan Pilgrims.  Going there now with such ease really makes the efforts and hazards they were forced to endure to get there all the more impressive…and then the real challenges began for them.

SAM_2847After a fine meal of fish and chips – well fries – we had a potter up towards the replica of the Mayflower, which as so often with things of history is built up one’s mind to be a lot bigger than in reality.  Highlights, ‘heroic’ rhetoric aside (below photo) was picking up the worst souvenir fridge magnet that I have ever come across.  It is a rubber rock with 1620 stamped on it.  Taken out of context it makes no sense and looks beleaguered in amongst my mum’s (vastly better) collection of fridge magnets but at least it is memorable.

SAM_2854As I mentioned in a past post, I met a fellow blogger, Morgan who made the trip from Pennsylvania to join two English lads – who sprinkle everything with liberal colloquialisms – for the biggest pieces of Sushi the city had to offer and plenty of language teaching.  Meeting a fellow blogger is always fascinating, it forever changes how you view their writings and you understand their mind more, their physical expressions and interpretations.  I urge everybody to go do it. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on 19/07/2016 in Boston, History, Transport, Travel

 

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Salem

Finally drawing to a close with these travel posts, having only one or two more after this one, I couldn’t fail to include Salem being a place of historical interest.

Hopping on a ferry on yet another glorious day (complete with furious sea breeze) was a fine idea that we collectively made, even if I do say so myself, which I just did.

SAM_2777Whilst leaving Boston, not only did a couple of planes fly low over us on towards the airport runway but the beleaguered tour guide whose voice was blown away by the ever-present wind informed us that one of the islands was the location of the film Shutter Island which I quite enjoyed and coincidentally was on last night.

SAM_2775Looking (with a bit of imagination) like the L.A. skyline from the A-Team credits, it was good to get wider perspective of the city which looked like it was built in Minecraft.

SAM_2797Not what I expected to greet me in Salem and resembling something from Baltimore docks, it nevertheless provided an intriguing beginning to the town which has a good bar call In a Pig’s Eye which is interestingly a phrase meaning disbelief (of a statement) and some pretty grim artwork.

SAM_2798The Salem Witch Museum is worth a visit to get a short history of the trials and the reason they came about, yet for such a serious subject it was a shame that some of it was so unintentionally comedic.  After such a chronicle of tragedy, it seemed tasteless to have all the kid’s witchy souvenirs in the gift shop, it did take the edge off of what was a terribly wretched time but also lessened the impact of its lessons. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on 17/07/2016 in Art, Boston, History, Travel

 

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Boston Public Library

After the last post which featured lots of exterior architecture photos, it would be remiss of me not to give you a glimpse inside one of the buildings at the very least and I was saving this particular one for just this occasion.

SAM_2837Standing opposite Trinity Church and the John Hancock Tower, there is always an air of excitement but that is probably me just projecting,  although the street market (which had plenty of foods from around the world) that popped up on one of the many trips past may have helped.  There was also a man serenading the library with opera on at least two instances rather bizarrely.

SAM_2686Just outside the entrance is an inspiring list of artists that whet the appetite for the creative endeavours that await in the library.  A vast collection that impressed me with the size and scope of its book choice (23 million items including maps, manuscripts and musical, including various first folios of Shakespeare as well as original scores from Prokofiev amongst others), I felt like I was being spoilt wandering the corridors and fully appreciating the air conditioning.

SAM_2689Passing through the main entrance and up a grand marble stairway, with its lions, columns and wonderful art work really sets the tone for the experience, the ideas and scholarship brought together is intoxicating as well as cementing the ‘knowledge is power’ quote firmly in mind.  I spent a good fifteen minutes just appreciating this approach to the main reading hall. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on 13/07/2016 in Architecture, Boston, Travel

 

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Boston Architecture

The below photo was taken in true tourist style, with head and camera out of window and plenty of waving to bemused locals who had no idea why I would be happy to be stuck in traffic.  Inadvertently the photo captures the wonderful spread of architecture seen throughout the city, the mixture on offer is a fascinating plethora of styles from new, old and ancient worlds.

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Taken in order of when I photographed them, there was quite a spread in the fairly small circle of walking that we did.

It only took a few minutes of walking to discover the John Ruskin inspired Gothic Revival example of architecture shown in Old South Church, completed in 1873.  Admittedly this is not the best shot of its impressive facade but there are plenty more searchable and impressive photos out there.

SAM_2679I was somewhat distracted as diagonally opposite I came across two examples of design stood side by side that epitomise the changes in architecture through the ages in the most jarring of ways…

SAM_2835Named one of the Ten Most Significant Buildings in the United States by the American Institute of architects (and is the only building still retained  from the original 1885 list), Trinity Church was designed by Henry Hobson Richardson and it is the archetype for the style later known as Richardson Romanesque Revival. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on 08/07/2016 in Architecture, Boston, Travel

 

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Boston Books Too

It feels good to round-up yet another book haul, two of which I have already read due to my recharged batteries and also because I find it hard to sleep before 2am, when I can sleep at night that is.

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The Ghosts We Know is a graphic novel which I found really interesting but you’ll have to wait for a review to find out why, it will be added to some reading lists though hopefully.  Why I Read and A Magnificent Farce are two books that come from my favourite shelves in any bookshop, the books about books section., nothing is going to get the readers back in like a book reiterating why a person loves to read. Such bliss will be saved for a rain day…if I can avoid temptation.

Hellenica is a collection of essays on Greek poetry, philosophy, history and religion and has a fantastically almost brand new feel to it and bringing up the rear in this photos pleasures was a book that will force me to read another book beforehand.  The Tangled Chain is a study on the structures and anomalies of the medical/scientific/philosophy work The Anatomy of melancholy.  Sometimes I need a push myself to the more challenging works and if buying another book helps it’s a bonus. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on 05/07/2016 in Boston, Lists/Ephemera

 

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Ste J in Boston

Making quite a team, once again I will kindly ask you to pop over to Resa’s blog to see a mural I noticed whilst wandering the streets.

Resa is known for her costume designs and has worked on plenty of thing including the TV show Sensitive Skin, of which season 2 is now airing in several countries for all you TV buffs out there.

Graffiti Lux and Murals

Ste J from Book to the Future sent us a mural from Boston.

SteB #5 Photo © Steve Johnson

“I found this one at the rear of the Symphony Hall which was just a short walk from where I was staying.”

SteB #1 Photo © Steve Johnson

“I didn’t get up early enough to beat the cars but it makes me happy that people see this mural everyday and is easily visible from the road as well.”

SteB #7 Photo © Steve Johnson

“It’s a wonderful piece this showing a variety of people and a real feeling of culture.”

SteB #3 Photo © Steve Johnson

“Music has a timeless feel and the power to move us, just like a good mural! I love the mixing of cultures it, provides a powerful statement about the universality of music.”

SteB #4 Photo © Steve Johnson

Ste J writes really great book reviews, some film reviews & once in a while a game…

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Posted by on 03/07/2016 in Art, Boston, Travel

 

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