A few months back, I happened to be in Paris. I spent days wandering back and forth, searching for places of interest and attempting to draw in as much of the atmosphere of the foreign city as I could. The fruits of my labour paid off when I stumbled across a bookstore, and not just any bookstore…
This is what I wrote in my journal:
“Last night, I went out into the city and I believe that I found nirvana. There was a bookshop opposite the Seine that seemed to be torn directly from the pages of… well… a book. It was a living cliché- the spitting image of my mental picture of a bookshop.
Inside, hundreds of books sat on warped shelves, stacked on tables or piled on the floor. A cat brushed my leg as I walked further inside. In the rear, I found a piano that said “play me”. A guy in a beret was doing just that, belting out a heartfelt rendition of David Bowie’s Space Oddity to a small crowd. I traversed a creaky staircase, carefully navigating around a man reading on one of the stairs, and upstairs I found more shelves bowing with the weight of words. But in the centre of the room was a table, on top of which were reams of loose paper, several open books, two type-writers and a pipe. A freakin’ pipe!
A severe-looking woman with crescent-shaped glasses and hair the colour and texture of steel wool was discussing the finer points of Proust with a young girl. Pale and thin, like paper, she sat and eagerly took notes.
Even though these sweater-wearing intellectuals made me feel like a philistine, I found something incredibly attractive in their strange way of life. Perhaps the place appealed to the romantic ideal of being an author, of an existence where books come first and things like eating come second. Whatever it was, when I did end up leaving, I left filled with a deep and strange sadness. Possessing only empty hands and a heavy heart, I made my way back to the hostel and went to bed.”
Melodramatic, I know. But the bookshop itself was so unlikely that I couldn’t help get a little caught up. For the life of me, I couldn’t remember the name of the bookstore. But this afternoon, I was trawling through The Guardian’s book section and I came across an article that caught my eye. And as it turns out, it features pretty much everything anyone would want to know about Shakespeare and Company. Anyone else been there?