Thursday, August 6, 2009
Time Was Soft There: A Memoir, A Paris Sojourn at Shakespeare & Co.
By Jeremy Mercer
Publisher: Picador, St. Martin's Press, New York
From Publishers Weekly
Mercer explains his memoir's title this way: "Hard time goes slowly and painfully and leaves a man bitter.... Time at Shakespeare and Company was as soft as anything I'd ever felt." His graceful narrative follows struggling writers as they live on potato soup and dreams at Paris's famous expatriate bookshop. Mercer, a former Ottowa Citizen crime reporter, finds himself at Shakespeare one gloomy Parisian day in 1999, in his late 20s, with not much money and no plans for the future, trying to evade some angry newspaper sources back home. With little fanfare, he is taken into the store by its owner, George Whitman, a kindly yet scatterbrained man, who explains, "I run a socialist utopia that masquerades as a bookstore." Mercer begins working as an eager unpaid employee, running errands, acting as a referee between the writers who hang out there and ringing up sales (it's no B&N superstore: when Mercer asks where the credit card machine is, he's told, "Dude, Shakespeare and Company doesn't even have a telephone. Of course we don't take credit cards"). Mercer portrays the assorted characters and their adventures with an eye for detail and a wry sense of humor. Francophile book lovers will enjoy his finely crafted memoir.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
When I read it:
We took a road trip up to Sacramento to visit friends on New Years in 2007. Of course, we passed through San Francisco! I do not travel much, but when I do, I MUST visit an independent bookstore. My goal for that trip was The City Lights Bookstore, for it's history and just plain "coolness!" I found this book there and was on a fixation of the Shakekespeare & Co. bookshop in Paris at the time.
Why I chose it:
. . . Because of my fixation on the Shakespeare & Co. bookshop in Paris! I also read Shakespeare & Company by Sylvia Beach (the original owner of the bookshop) and when I get my mind on something, I go all the way (meaning, I want to visit it someday, too!). Mercer's memoir is about his time there and his relationship with the current owner, George Whitman. Shakespeare & Co. is a haven for writers. They are/were allowed to live IN the bookstore! Mercer enters into the bookstore's world with high hopes of writing a "brilliant novel at the bookstore" and be considered an "acclaimed genious." What transpires is a personal story of hope, maturity, and "life imitating art." The book has been acclaimed as a living biography of George Whitman, a very good one!
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