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Shakespeare and Company, Paris

02 Jun

Greetings all!  Here is something a little different today, as my friend Tom is taking over the blog to amuse and amaze you all with talk of the Paris experience he had with his missus Lorraine, namely the bookish part.  So please direct all your comments to ‘The T’ (as no one refers to him) and I will put them up and possibly put my two penn’orth in where appropriate:

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 I don’t really do books, at least, not as much as I’d like.   A curious intro to a guest-post on a book blog I’m sure you’ll agree.  I’m more of an audio-visual kind of guy. Not to suggest books are in any way inferior, simply that as you develop and ones day-to-day habits become entrenched I tend to spend more of my life watching and playing stuff than reading it.   A tragic shame, yet also a fact.   Thank goodness for Ste J: constantly reminding me of the magic, whimsy and power of the medium: enthusiasm dripping off him like the sap of countless trees felled so that people may write words down on something and then have it read.  I even read stuff he recommends me, sometimes.  So our relationship goes: he tuts at the over-abundance of graphic novels and barely read classics on my bookshelves and I tut at the ‘Recently Watched’ in his Netflix queue. In our own ways we try to help each other out with this sort of thing, you could call it a kind of mutual-pity.  I think we’re just ashamed of one-another.

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Nestled near Notre Dame Cathedral there lives a small English language bookshop by the name of Shakespeare and Company.  Me and my girlfriend Lorraine were having a weekend city break and we’re both huge fans of Richard Linklator’s ‘Before’ trilogy (as in Before Sunrise, Before Sunset and Before Midnight).  A miraculous series of films involving the romance between two people, a French woman (Julie Delphy) and an American man (Ethan Hawke) each of the sequels was shot 10 years after the previous film showing the couple at different life stages and in new, increasingly complex emotional territory.  I would argue, as a whole, they represent one of the great romances in cinema and certainly one of the most thorough and honest cinematic documents of the nature of modern love, warts and all.  But I’m getting carried away.  The second film: Before Sunset, involves the two characters reconnecting in Paris, after having not seen each other for 10 years. They meet in a book shop, where the man is doing a signing for his newly released book. Me and Lorraine thought it would be nice to visit this bookshop. We did, and yes, it was.

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Lorraine and cat (right) showing various degrees of interest in the surroundings.

Similar to my local Geoff Blore’s (which has received a lot of attention in this hallowed e-tomb) Shakespeare and company feels truly alive with literature.  It smells like pages of forgotten manuscript.  There are books crammed into every crevice.  It eschews all modern ideals of interior design.  It’s one of those magical buildings that, appearing pokey on the outside, seems to expand within: Shelf-lined passageways contorting and twisting round into new avenues of discovery like the roots of a gnarly old tree, blooming into whole rooms you weren’t even sure could exist within the buildings labyrinthine frame.

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Your guest blogger for the day looking overly smug at being somewhere bookish that I am not.

On the first floor they sold new books, but as you explored upward the line began to blur, there were simply tomes of all shapes and size, in all states of preservation haphazardly lining the walls in that way that simultaneously looks intentional.  On the second floor, we discovered a small reading library, with express instructions that books not be taken away and a polite request they be put back in the same place you found them.  There were plenty of comfy seats in which to curl up with your novel (or novella?) of choice and enjoy the remarkably quiet ambience, impressive as the building was stuffed with tourists.

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Dotted throughout were antique typewriters, a call to arms for any would-be writers passing by that day that seemed to say “stop thinking about it and just write it!”.  There were many other treats to be found: a tiny piano with hand written music upon it and a hulking white cat, asleep in a nearby chair, enjoying the afternoon sun streaming in through the open window.  As a lovely touch, they stamp the books you buy on the front page with the motif of the shop, and because we spent over 40 euros we received a classy display box (For the record I bought Lorraine a book containing the scripts for Before Sunrise and Before Sunset and I got a fancy looking book about quirky director Wes Anderson).

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Before visiting Shakespeare and Co we stopped by Notre Dame Cathedral.  A vast piece of Gothic architecture that dwarfed all around it, the opulence and majesty of the structure was so overpowering it wasn’t even diminished by the glee club-esque ‘Rock Choir’, situated in the park behind performing horrible renditions of mid nineties guitar music, but I digress.  Within, bustling tourists aside (nobody looks clever taking pictures with an iPad) the sense of purpose and reverence was potent, a true physical monument to the conviction of human kind.  I found it curious that Shakespeare and Co filled me with a similar feeling.  These little independent bookshops stand as monuments themselves, shrines not just to books but to the minds of the people who fill their pages, Notre Dame was a lovely cathedral to visit, but books are something more, something infinitely more personable and powerful, they too are built with conviction but they are infinitely more generous; they help us build our own cathedrals, in our minds.

Post script:

At one point I was reminded of my crushing lack of cultural education in the literature world when an American woman asked me if I knew which Ernest Hemingway story mentioned that very bookshop. Confused, I slumped off to the Film section in shame. Do you know, fair readers?

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16 Comments

Posted by on 02/06/2014 in Blogging, Travel

 

Tags: , , , , , , ,

16 responses to “Shakespeare and Company, Paris

  1. shadowoperator

    02/06/2014 at 17:42

    Hello, “The T.” Though I can’t be sure exactly which Hemingway story features your newly found bookshop, I do believe that the owner back in the day was host to Ezra Pound, T. S. Eliot, and others (I can’t remember her name now, but it’s almost certainly IN PRINT somewhere. Ha! Ha!).

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  2. tomrobinsonz

    02/06/2014 at 19:00

    Ha! Yes I understood the place has quite the spectacular list of previous clientèle but even so that is mightily impressive!

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  3. gargoylebruce

    02/06/2014 at 23:04

    Nothing wrong with graphic novels…some of the best innovations in writing are coming out of graphic novels these days…In fact I’ve got my eye on a new release graphic biography of Andre the Giant by Skyhorse. Innovation indeed!

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    • tomrobinsonz

      03/06/2014 at 20:25

      Indeed, At their best they can be a treasure trove of fantastically imaginative storytelling coupled with wonderfully evocative art but as a medium it is still not taken seriously in some circles which is a crying shame. That biography sounds like a treat indeed! 🙂

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  4. sakuraandme

    03/06/2014 at 06:55

    Hey T, pleased to meet you. Lol

    Lordy I have no idea but wish I could pretend to know! LMAO
    I love reading but lately I haven’t done very much of it. That book shop looks amazingly homely and I’m jealous you got to see such a place. 🙂

    Loved your post. Hugs to you and my blog brother.
    Paula xxx

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    • tomrobinsonz

      03/06/2014 at 20:31

      Hey there P (ha!), a pleasure to make your acquaintance also!

      I wish I could have pretended to know too. I kind of mumbled something at the time and apologised profusely as is the British way.

      It was a lovely place and one of the highlights of the trip, I was ill all that weekend but it put a spring in my step. I’m very pleased you enjoyed the post, that means a lot coming from a real blogger (as opposed to a dabbler like myself!)

      I hope you manage to squeeze in some more reading soon 🙂

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  5. Lyn

    04/06/2014 at 04:04

    Now that is the sort of shop I like. Bookstores should, by law, be required to furnish seats for customers. I love the B & W picture of the desk with the typewriter on it. That’s enough to make even the most unwriterly person become writerly. All it needs is an old fashioned desk lamp and a nice big mug of coffee 🙂

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    • tomrobinsonz

      05/06/2014 at 21:47

      Absolutely! Give me comfort and character over your local ‘big brand’ bookshop any day! After doing a bit of research online I see you can sleep in the shop as well, perfect!

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  6. RoSy

    04/06/2014 at 13:40

    Hi “The T” – Nice to meet you!

    I see that I’m not alone in the life of more watching & playing stuff rather than reading.
    Different strokes for different folks. 😉

    A nice place for a visit. It seems rather welcoming & makes me want to pick up a book & read.
    Thanks you for sharing your experience in words & in photos. Seems like you & Lorraine had a nice time on your outing.

    Like you – I slump to the film section in shame.

    PeAce out! 🙂

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    • tomrobinsonz

      05/06/2014 at 21:51

      Oh dear, it sounds like that nickname is going to stick lol!.

      I salute you, we can’t all be gigantic book folk when there are so many other treats to digest!

      We had a lovely time thank you and I highly recommend paying it a visit next time you find yourself in Paris 🙂

      It was a pleasure to share my experience and I hope you derived some modicum of pleasure by reading it. I wouldn’t have this opportunity without Ste J being kind enough to let me post on his blog read by all you lovely people.

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  7. Tom Gething

    05/06/2014 at 02:02

    I don’t know of a Hemingway story that mentions the shop, but it does receive his attention in his memoir of Paris, “A Moveable Feast.”

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    • tomrobinsonz

      05/06/2014 at 21:55

      I wish I could tell you if you were right, wish to weigh in on this Ste J?

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      • Ste J

        06/06/2014 at 18:13

        It is indeed A Moveable Feast…as all books are, except for Dan Brown books, naturally.

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  8. thejerseygal®™

    05/06/2014 at 21:04

    Hello Mr. T. My only guess is Hemingway’s memoir, A Movable Feast???
    Anyway, for an avid video-watcher, you write quite well. I believe Ste J is the ying to your yang and together you can come up with amusing little creative bursts.

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    • tomrobinsonz

      08/06/2014 at 17:30

      Indeed we do work quite well together! It is indeed A Movable Feast, a book I shall now look up on Wikipedia. Thank you for the writing complement, I am trying to do more of it! As for creative bursts watch this space!

      Like

       

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