“In those days there was no money to buy books. I borrowed books from the rental library of Shakespeare & Company, which was the library & bookstore of Sylvia Beach at 12 Rue de l’Odéon… Sylvia had a lively, sharply sculptured face, brown eyes that were alive as a small animal’s & gay as a young girl’s, & wavy brown hair that was brushed back from her fine forehead… she was kind, cheerful & interested, & loved to make jokes & gossip. No one that I ever knew was nicer to me.”
Ernest Hemingway, A Moveable Feast
I suppose I am a bit bookish, with my 100s of books stacked about the house. Books have been a major force in my life since before I could read, & I always loved to spend time in bookstores. It is hard to grasp that they have become a thing of the past.
Sylvia Beach, in front of the store, with James Joyce
Born on this day in 1887, to a Presbyterian pastor & his wife in Bridgeton, NJ., Nancy Woodridge Beach changed her name to Sylvia Beach when she was a teenager. As a teenager, her father was associate pastor of the American Church in Paris & young Sylvia dreamed that she would someday live in the City of Lights. During WWI, she & her sister volunteered for the
Beach is one of the best known of the American expatriates of the early 20th century. She owned & operated the bookstore- Shakespeare & Company. The store was the first English language bookshop on Paris’ Left Bank. Shakerpeare & Company was a literary center, lending library, & publishing company between the 2 World Wars. The frequent visitors icluded: Gertrude Stein, Natalie Barney, Andre Gide, Ezra Pound, D.H. Lawrence, T.S. Eliot, Tornton Wilder, Picasso, Man
I wish I could ride in the limo from Woody Allen’s Midnight In Paris. I would like to go Shakespeare & Company in
When the Nazis invaded
She wrote it all down & immortalized her store & the expatriate literary circle in an excellent memoir- Shakespeare & Company.
The great love of Beach’s life was Adrienne Monnier, a Frenchwoman who owned a bookshop called La Maison des Amis des Livres, literally across the street from Shakespeare & Company. Beach & Monnier lived together from 1920 to 1936, when Monnier’s affair with another women caused them to separate. In true lesbian fashion, they soon reconciled & remained together Monnier’s death in 1955. Though Beach lived most of her life abroad, she is buried, not in Paris, but in a Princeton cemetery with her family. Her papers were donated to the Princeton Library.
There exists, a Sylvia Beach Hotel on the Oregon coast, a sort of large B&B with a literary theme, no phones, no TV, no Wi-Fi, & rooms named: The Mark Twain, The Emily Dickenson, The Charles Dickens & The Ernest Hemingway. Please, don’t make me stay there. I wish they featured rooms such as: The Franz Kafka, The Sylvia Plath, The Cormac McCarthy, & The William Golding.