Hi y’all. I have no Kanye jokes for you today because nothing’s funny about the gunning down of ten staff of the satirical publication Charlie Hebdo and two police officers in Paris today. If you’re here at RBR it’s because you love books and I hope that means you also love the rights of artists, writers, and other creators to free speech. It’s a shit day today. Max Read at Gawker has prepared an excellent overview of Charlie Hebdo and their previous controversies. And by controversies I mean “times they exercised free speech in ways that likely led to the death of 12 people today.”
What a shit day.
We’re taking a break from our regularly scheduled programming to talk book shopping en Paris. Paris is where writers come to write, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t bring a stack of blank notebooks, but even more so it’s where readers come to read. In between wine and macaron stops I’ve been hitting bookstores and scouring second-hand stalls.
Shakespeare and Company is a must-visit but also a really annoying place to shop. There’s a line outside, the store is packed, the antiquarian side of the bookshop is only open 10 hours a week and there are just so many people. But it’s dazzling and I’d go back everyday. The reading room and writer’s library upstairs reeked of wisdom and history and the fiction selection was a carefully selected mix of new literary fiction and classics by Shakespeare and Company alums.
From there I headed to the banks of the Seine where there are scores of booksellers who have set up kiosks for rare books and posters. Prices aren’t marked so if you’re patient and willing to bargain you can get a great deal. Alternatively, if your French isn’t great, you may wind up overpaying for a volume just because it’s old, even though it has no real value.
The day ended at Delmain on rue Saint-Honore. They had a lovely mix of antiquarian French classics (these guys really love Balzac and Hugo, huh?), limited edition pressings of poetry, and Paris-centric fiction. No English-language collection that I saw but I did pick up a 1922 French language edition of Rudyard Kipling’s Kim that I’m excited to torture my nephews with when they get a bit older.
A bientot and happy new year from Red Brick Reads.
There is a scene in the last section of A Moveable Feast where F. Scott Fitzgerald confesses to Ernest Hemingway that he has only ever been with one woman; Zelda. What’s more, he tells Hemingway that Zelda insists her husband could not ever please another woman. “It is a matter of measurements,” she says. Hemingway and Fitzgerald head to the restroom so Hemingway can take a look. Hemingway assures his friend that he is of normal size. As the availability of Internet porn was still more than 50 years away, the two then went to the Louvre so that Fitzgerald could inspect the male nudes for his further assurance. I have no idea why Woody Allen would have left that part out of Midnight in Paris. Less time in Gertrude Stein’s parlour, more time inspecting schlongs at the Louvre please!
Adam Gopnik recently wrote a piece (sub req’d) in the New Yorker about traveling home to Montreal to learn to bake bread with his mother. That piece led to my personal decree that Adam Gopnik might be my spirit animal, or at the very least, that we might be kindred spirits in the way of Anne Shirley and Diana Barry.
Here is what I knew about Adam Gopnik before reading “Bread and Women” in last year’s food issue:
1) Adam Gopnik is a man who writes for the New Yorker.