The bookshop that thinks it’s a hotel

Just in time for our Shakespeare & Company outings, the Independent has a feature on the shop.

At Shakespeare & Co, there’s not enough space for a stockroom, so it’s a constant merry-go-round of books bought and books sold; tourists flock here to take photographs of the higgledy-piggledy interior, with books stacked from floor to ceiling. This is the place, after all, where in the Fifties the Beat poets hung out, and, more recently, where Ethan Hawke is filmed in the opening scenes of cult movie Before Sunset (and, indeed, where Meryl Streep in last year’s Julia & Julia was seen to wander, in search of a cookbook). There’s a wishing well in the floor that holds a plenteous supply of coins; in times gone by, it had a gas pipe which owner George Whitman was inclined to light on occasion (once, the story goes, when he was feeling particularly rakish, he accidentally set a hair-model’s long tresses on fire). Upstairs, at the top of the winding staircase, there are all sorts of places for readers to loll. One room is a library, with literary donations to Whitman from Simone de Beauvoir’s personal collection, and an eclectic selection of his own books – what remained, anyway, after a horrendous fire a number of years ago destroyed thousands of words. That’s the room with a piano (and a fire extinguisher). When I visit, most customers aren’t shy about playing it; although one man, too bashful to perform, is unable to resist sitting at the stool – he mimes playing for 10 minutes, fingers never touching the keys.

Read more here.

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