Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Just Closed the Cover On . . .

. . . Time Was Soft There: A Paris Sojourn at Shakespeare & Co by Jeremy Mercer.

I love books and bookstores. Jeremy Mercer has shared a fascinating portrait of life inside the famous Paris bookstore, Shakespeare & Co. It's a charming memoir about his time living there. Yes, people--many, actually--reside at Shakespeare & Co. Proprietor George Whitman (no relation to Walt, despite the portrait outside) welcomes strays into his shop for bed, food, and esprit de corps.

What amazed me as I read this book is that Mercer writes about his time at Shakespeare & Co beginning in 1999. If I didn't keep that in mind, I would have read this as a chronicle of the '60s or '70s, a much more freewheeling and experimental era.

Mercer does a great job developing his characters, most notably friends Kurt and owner George. Mercer chronicles his own challenges, fears, and ultimate triumph and paints a sweet, though eccentric, picture of life there. We see relationships forming and unraveling, scavenging for food, and bathing in public spaces. Underneath it all is the joy and power of books.

Mercer's book is a delightful read for the bookishly inclined. It'a amazing that a place like Shakespeare and Co exists, indeed thrives.

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