Ode to a Book Store

100_0036hobn (4)More than anything, what every writer really wants to see, is their book, on a shelf, in a bookstore. A place where we can touch it, and know it exists as the titled spine calls out for attention. But I think as much as anything, for each of us, there is a single bookstore where ours can mingle with the greats of history in a way no other bookstore may offer.

For me, this bookstore is Shakespeare and Company in Paris. A bookstore where Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ezra Pound, Gertrude Stein, T.S. Eliot, to name but a few, who stayed to be immersed within its creative juices.

A place nicknamed “Shakespeare on Odeon” by James Joyce who wrote Ulysses within this chalice of literature.

It is not that all the books are here, it is that so many of those great writers spent time here, to create and dream. Like those dreamers, this writer’s wish is to someday stand amongst them. Perchance, to be held with idle curiosity as if I too may be great. A faint hope, but one most will take, even if by osmosis.  

Sylvia Beach’s bookstore has endured much of recent history’s wars and peace, beginning on the left bank of Paris, in 1919 at 8 rue Dupuytren, before moving to 12 rue de l’Odeon in 1922. It closed in 1940 due to the German occupation.

The third and present day incarnation opened in 1951 by George Martin at 37 rue de la Bucherie near Notre Dame Cathedral, and now operated by his daughter, Sylvia Beach Witman.

In its’ more than six decades this latest reincarnation has hosted, the likes of Allen Ginsberg, and William S. Burroughs,  Henry Miller, and Richard Wright.

As often as I shall return to Paris, I shall return to this hallowed edifice, consecrated by my heroes, and maybe one day I will find the witch’s malice standing tall next to For Whom the Bell Tolls. My name shouldered against that of Hemingway, a hero, in so many ways, and so many words.

This is a historic place, a bookstore where as young writers these giants of literature would congregate, and know the others intimately.  A place to be with their muse and dreams, and where you are now wandering amongst them. Where you can drag your hand lazily along a row of books of mythical proportion, and in a quiet moment imagine their shadows or hear a whispered sequence.

As a writer I dream to be amidst literatures legends and however remote it may be, this bookstore seems to allow it. I know their novels and poetry, I have read them, and been weak with envy that anyone could envision such perfect prose. In dreams, they are my serving muse.

The narrow aisles hide adventure and humanities history. Concealed within the walls of this bookstore, with its alcoves and tiny rooms are notes pinned to old bulletin boards to speak of a reader’s gratitude.  Of emotions felt and imagination fulfilled.

 Like its books, Shakespeare and Company has a telling history, of dedicated dreamers and their prose.

 Dare I dream it may carry mine, as humility pulls at my heart’s strings asking if I am truly worthy of such association?

 We are such stuff as dreams are made on

David Hutchison, writer.