Monday, May 05, 2008

Let's hear it for The Red Wheelbarrow!

Howdy. Two posts in a row...I'm taking over the joint, eh? In today's Shelf Awareness "Quote of the Day," Jeanette Winterson, author of Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit among many others, has a quote from her Times of London article this past Friday about Shakespeare & Company, public buses in Britain, and Sartre. Suffice it to say that we here at S.O.T.B. are really only interested in what she says about the bookstore (Sartre be damned!). Surprisingly, Ms. Winterson seems never to have heard of, nor visited, the famed shop on rue De La Bucherin in Paris. Enamored of the whole "lost generation" of it all she writes:
Sometimes you just want to live inside a book. In Paris this can happen quite literally, thanks to what might be the world's most exciting bookshop: Shakespeare and Company. Originally opened in 1919 by Sylvia Beach, who published Joyce's Ulysses and bankrupted herself in the process, the shop in its present location, overlooking Notre Dame, was revived in 1951 by a romantic American bibliophile called George Whitman. George is still alive at 94, but the shop is now owned and managed by his powerhouse 28-year-old daughter, Sylvia Beach Whitman.

The ethos is as it ever was - two floors of books of every kind, new and second-hand, and a library for browsers, along with a piano if you feel like playing it. The books are all English language, and the place is open every night until 11pm, staffed by fresh-faced and optimistic twentysomethings from around the world, who work in the shop for a few hours a day, and undertake to read a book every day too, in return for a bed every night. No need to sleep with a book under your pillow when your book is a pillow; there are 11 beds hidden in the bookshop itself, like secret finds in a child's puzzle. By day they are neat and discreet, by night, not just ZZZZs but all the letters of the alphabet swarm above the heads of the hard-working dreamers.
I agree! It would be wonderful to live in historic bookshop. Especially in Paris! (Though I could do with a real pillow...neck pain, you know.) However, I am convinced that if I could pick one shop in all of Paris to live in it wouldn't be Shakespeare & Company. I've got news...there is a new kid on the block and that kid is The Red Wheelbarrow Bookstore. Located in the uber-cool Marais district of Paris and conveniently near the St. Paul's Metro stop on the One line, The Red Wheelbarrow is the new haven for books in English in Paris. On my trip to Paris last month I was enchanted by the close quarters, the stacks and stacks and stacks of books, and the delightful staff led by Penelope Le Masson. They are welcoming, well read, and in love with the printed word. There is not a hipster attitude anywhere in the store. Just books. Oh so many great British and American books. Sure, Hemingway never hung out here but he would were he around today...certainly, at least, you would practically trip over of F.Scott Fitzgerald in one of the corners of the store were he still kickin' it live (p.s. Zelda, call me!). I love the store and, while it doesn't quite yet have the reputation of Shakespeare & Co., it is a better all around bookshop in a great part of town. You can thank us for the insider hookup after your trip. Just sayin'.

The Red Wheelbarrow is located at 22 Rue St. Paul, 75004 Paris, France. (That's Arrondisement 4 for those of you going to Paris for the first time.) The Metro station is "St. Paul" and they are open everyday: Mondays from 10 am to 6pm, Tuesdays to Saturdays from 10 am to pm and Sundays from 2 pm to 6pm.

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