Sunday, July 17, 2011

Web of The Week - Shakespeare and Company

Screenshot of Shakespeare and Company website
Shakespeare and Company is an independent bookstore located opposite Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris's Left Bank. Originally established in 1919 by Sylvia Beach, the store became a gathering place for writers such as Ezra Pound, Ernest Hemingway, William S. Burroughs, James Joyce and Ford Madox Ford. So great is the list of great writers who have passed through its doors or spent time living on its upper floors, that Shakespeare and Company has grown from a bookstore into an institution.

During the pre-war years the store was considered the centre of Anglo-American literary culture in Paris, which saw writers and artists of the "Lost Generation," spending a great deal of time at Shakespeare and Company. In fact, it was Sylvia Beach who initially published James Joyce's book Ulysses in 1922, which was subsequently banned in the United States and in the United Kingdom.

Shakespeare and Company has always been more than just a bookstore. From the beginning the shop included kitchen and sleeping facilities, and even today, volunteer workers are able to stay in the store, working, reading, writing and discussing literary ideas, theories, and more. After Sylvia Beach’s death the store was taken over by George Whitman, and following his passing, the store is now run by his daughter, Sylvia Beach Whitman.

The home page for the website has the very unusual characteristic of loading something different every time you press the F5 (or Refresh) key. In deed, the scrapbook nature of the layout, featuring multiple images and scraps of writing, leads to a cornucopia of other images that seem to lead off in an endless and haphazard way into the bowels of the site. It is impossible to know how many layers deep the site goes, which makes exploring Shakespeare and Company either endlessly frustrating, or infinitely fascinating. It all depends on how you approach it.

More Information
A 2005, fifty-two minute documentary film about Shakespeare and Company, Portrait of a Bookstore as an Old Man, can be seen here in its entirety...

Shakespeare and Company on Wikipedia…

The shop was featured in the Woody Allen film Midnight in Paris.


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