cover image Shakespeare and Company, Paris: A History of the Rag & Bone Shop of the Heart

Shakespeare and Company, Paris: A History of the Rag & Bone Shop of the Heart

Edited by Krista Halverson. Shakespeare and Co. (D.A.P, dist.), $34.94 (384p) ISBN 979-10-96101-00-9

This profusely illustrated 65th-anniversary tribute to Shakespeare and Company, the renowned Left Bank bookstore and mecca for 20th-century literati, is delectable eye candy for lovers of books and reading. Editor Halverson (who is the director of the bookstore’s publishing venture) has fashioned a decade-by-decade biography that begins with the store of the same name that was run by Sylvia Beach (publisher of Joyce’s Ulysses) from 1919 until the Nazi occupation of Paris in 1941. In 1951, George Whitman bought a three-room shop in the shadow of Notre Dame that he dubbed the Librairie le Mistral (it would not become Shakespeare and Company until 1964) and, leaning on his GI bill, began fleshing out his personal library with additional books to sell and lend. Soon, Whitman was putting up vagabond book lovers overnight—“Tumbleweeds,” he affectionately called them—and the store earned the reputation as a place where visitors could stay indefinitely as long as they put in several hours of store work per day, left an autobiographical note, and read a book per day. Whitman emerges as an eccentric character—he served wine to the crème de la crème of the book world out of old tuna cans—whose unbridled passion for his work attracted James Baldwin, Langston Hughes, Allen Ginsberg, Anaïs Nin, and countless other literary luminaries to stage public readings of their works at the shop. Each chapter bursts with lists of the shop’s many celebrity frequenters and virtually every page is adorned with photos of the shop, the renowned writers who patronized it, and reproductions of the autobiographies written by some of the 30,000 Tumbleweeds. This intimate portrait of a most public business is an exuberant celebration of a bookstore whose history is still being written. Color illus. [em](Sept.) [/em]