I’ve been to Paris twice. I’ve been to the Notre Dame Cathedral twice. Both of these times I did not realize that just a short distance away, facing Notre Dame, was a bookstore named Shakespeare & Co. The discovery of this bookstore’s existence, long after I had visited Paris for the second time, became somewhat of an obsession for me, and, a deep regret that I had not known of its existence while mere feet away from it.
Obviously, for a book-lover like myself, not knowing about Shakespeare & Co. while in its vicinity (twice) is something that I am very embarrassed and ashamed to admit. When I did discover it, after I had moved to Winnipeg, I devoured everything I could find about its history. I read Time Was Soft There by Jeremy Mercer, a book about his time spent living in this bookstore. Yes, you can LIVE in the bookstore. There are little nooks with beds and the owner, George Whitman, would let aspiring artists and writers stay there, in exchange for minimal help around the shop. There is a wishing well in the back of the store and a cat who roams about the stacks of books.
Today, George Whitman, the owner of Shakespeare & Co. passed away at 98 years of age in his apartment above the store. He is quoted as saying: “I wanted a bookstore because the book business is the business of life.”
Yes. This is why I am in publishing, this is why I love books and this is what I believe.
We’re planning a trip to Europe for this coming summer. We are going to Paris for two reasons: 1) Theo has never been there, and 2) I must get this right and visit Shakespeare & Co. (third time’s a charm, right?). It’s just too bad I won’t get to meet George and hear about his fascinating life.
If you’re curious, here are some good articles written about George Whitman that were published today: