During the Christmas holiday we went to Paris for a couple of days. There is much for a Canadian literary tourist to see in Paris, but I limited myself to snapping a photo of the bookstore Shakespeare and Company and of the street that Mavis Gallant lives on. The rest of the time was for walking Paris. Ok, and a bit of shopping.
The bookstore was crowded with tourists. We were tourists, too, but really. I went upstairs to see George’s library, where two young writers were ensconced doing their daily read, but I didn’t interrupt them. If you want to get the inside story on the bookstore, read Time Was Soft There, by Canadian Jeremy Mercer, who has settled in Marseille. Sadly Mercer’s book does not indicate if any other Canadian writers took refuge at Shakespeare and Company. Still, his memoir of George Whitman’s shop and its coterie of writers is a good read, what with the store under threat from developers and the author’s role in reuniting George with his daughter. Sylvia, who took over the shop after George’s death.
The bookshop I should have gone to is the Abbey Bookshop, owned by Canadian Brian Spence, in the Hotel Dubuisson on rue de la Parcheminerie, where you can find books by Canadians as well as enjoy the historic street of scriveners.
Having no wish to disturb writers at work, I did not enter the building of Mavis Gallant’s apartment. [This was written before Mavis Gallant’s death in February 2014.] Here are a couple of snaps of the neighbourhood.
- More on the Abbey Bookshop at Bookstore Guide
- KMZ running eye blog, which Mercer co-founded
- Some things in the New Yorker on Mavis Gallant
- The Canadian Encyclopedia entry on Mavis Gallant