The next in a series of vignettes and pensées written by my husband, David Wolf, on an extended stay in Paris one early summer. This one concerns Shakespeare and Company, the famed English-language bookstore on the left bank.
All Americans visiting Paris must stop here at least once in their lives. And you should do so preferably when you’re young and at your most hungry for stories and ideas about your world. Then, when you’re older, go again: There’s beauty in witnessing the next generation’s thrill at discovering this cramped and craggy old bookstore.
Strolling down the Boulevard St. Michel toward the Seine after dinner on the Rue Mouffetard and a late coffee across from the dark gates of the Jardin du Luxembourg, I recognize a young woman I had seen hours earlier at the famous bookshop, Shakespeare and Co. I had watched her as she entered the store, smiling, wondrously taking in what looked to be her first impressions of the old overstuffed cave of books. She asked the clerk for the poetry section.
Here she comes now up the boulevard, a half-dozen books in her arms, gazing now into the lighted widows of the closed shops, still beaming as I am nearly 20 years since Wini and I first walked into Shakespeare and Co. and I asked the store’s famous proprietor, George Whitman, to direct me to the poetry section. Whitman, who claimed to be the illegitimate great grandson of Walt Whitman, was on his way out of the shop.
“Where are you from?” he asked.
“Des Moines, Iowa,” I replied.
“Well it beats Council Bluffs,” he said and walked out the front door.
More Paris Bits:
• Day 8: An Attempt to Foil a Queue-Basher in France
• Day 7: Français ou Americain? Or, How to Insult a Frenchman
• Day 6: Thoughts on the Six-Week French Vacation
• Day 5: Writers on Vacation in Paris
• Day 4: The Eiffel Tower in the Millenium
• Day 3: All in a Day in Paris
• Day 2: The Art Teacher
• Day 1: Lunch on the Rue de la Roquette