Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Book Review | "Shakespeare and Company" by Sylvia Beach.

For those of you who have been following my blog, you'll know that I was able to visit Paris at the end of March (something I had been wanting to do for easily ten years). While I was there, I of course- as well as, I'm sure many other book lovers- had to visit the Shakespeare & Co. bookshop. I bought a few books, which I never ended up doing a haul over due to other videos that needed posting, and then too much time passing. Anyway, I bought two historical books while I was there. One being a short historical booklet of the current shop and the late shop-owner, the other being a memoir written by Sylvia Beach about her bookshop. The original Shakespeare and Company.
While it was a pricey book (around 20 euros, I think) I had saved my money and convinced myself to get it.
 That's all a very long introduction to my review- but here it is!

Shakespeare and Company
Sylvia Beach was intimately acquainted with the expatriate and visiting writers of the Lost Generation, a label that she never accepted. Like moths of great promise, they were drawn to her well-lighted bookstore and warm hearth on the Left Bank. Shakespeare and Company evokes the zeitgeist of an era through its revealing glimpses of James Joyce, Ernest Hemingway, Scott Fitzgerald, Sherwood Anderson, Andre Gide, Ezra Pound, Gertrude Stein, Alice B. Toklas, D. H. Lawrence, and others already famous or soon to be. In his introduction to this new edition, James Laughlin recalls his friendship with Sylvia Beach. Like her bookstore, his publishing house, New Directions, is considered a cultural touchstone.

There isn't too much to say about the book. It's a memoir that briefly recounts Beach's childhood and how she ended up opening an American bookshop in Paris- then continuing in much more detail her work with James Joyce and her relationships with countless other writers/publishers of the era. It was a relatively slow read, because of all the detail and the names- but I did enjoy it. Obviously, this isn't going to be a book for everyone. If you enjoy literary history, or literature from the 1920s, then I think you'll enjoy this more. Considering the price of my edition and the, what seems to be, less than frequent publishing of the book, I definitely say that if you have a chance to read it- go ahead, but it isn't necessarily worth spending a lot of money on if you aren't completely fascinated by the subject.

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