A Novel Place

I have Susan and her keen hotel-finding skills to thank for allowing us to discover the remarkable Shakespeare & Company. From our room overlooking the Notre Dame Cathedral, the venerable bookseller was tucked in not so much as a stone’s throw away from us, but we didn’t know anything about it until a walk post dinner and post spring shower led us to chance past its storefront…


…whereupon we immediately detoured to explore its intriguing interior spaces.

Susan, who’d said she was in need of a new book had previously been eyeing the entirely en francais literary selections of the various street vendors we found along the Seine. Not more than a few moments inside this all en anglais shoppe among the wall-to-wall, floor-to-ceiling tomes the book she needed jumped out at me in the form of Umberto Eco’s The Mysterious Flame Of Queen Loana.

“I found what you’re looking for,” I told her as I handed it over. She gave it a once-over and appreciatively agreed.

I spent the next few minutes wandering around in amazement snapping pix of the place until I realized my desire for a new read as well — moreso because I wanted to support this wonderful establishment and not because I needed one. Currently I’m on the hunt for a killer around L.A. with Jonathan Kellerman’s protaganist in Gone, but he got me pfffting through it early on because he’s refered to our infamous Santa Ana winds as “Santa Susannas” and while his lead character was driving around chasing down leads he made a point of noting the intersection of Sixth Street and La Cienega Boulevard, which does not exist (Sixth ends at San Vicente Boulevard, the border of Beverly Hills that’s a couple blocks east of La Cienega).

But finding my next read wasn’t as easy as finding Susan’s. I eyed stacks of Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth and Sun Tzu’s The Art Of War among several other titles until I laid eyes on a paperback titled Rain by Karen Duve. On its cover stood a quote from The Guardian’s review telling me it’s “Not for the squemish… a modern Gothic” and on the back the teaser told me more:

“When Leon lands a contract to ghost-write the memoirs of a dodgy gangster, his worries seem to be over: now he can afford to move to a dream home in the country with his beautiful wife Martina. But the house is by a fetid swamp where it never stops raining, and, like his marriage, is starting to sink. Then he gets writer’s block and he’s already spent his advance. Their attempts at DIY are hampered by a plague of indestructible slugs eating away at the foundation. And then the gangster, unhappy with the pages Leon’s written, starts to get nasty…”


After making the purchase we moved on and wandered around and through the city’s fabeled Latin Quarter and I wondered if I was setting foot on streets once trod by the likes of Ernest Hemingway, James Joyce, Gertrude Stein and F. Scott Fitzgerald.

For a look around and inside the bookstore, visit this photoset on Flickr.