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Time Was Soft There: A Paris Sojourn at Shakespeare & Co. (original 2005; edition 2006)

by Jeremy Mercer

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7131913,224 (3.72)67
Member:mstrust
Title:Time Was Soft There: A Paris Sojourn at Shakespeare & Co.
Authors:Jeremy Mercer
Info:Picador (2006), Paperback, 272 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:****
Tags:non-fiction, books on books, France

Work details

Time Was Soft There: A Paris Sojourn at Shakespeare & Co. by Jeremy Mercer (2005)

  1. 00
    Shakespeare and Company, Paris: A History of the Rag & Bone Shop of the Heart by Krista Halverson (alanteder)
    alanteder: Another excellent recent book on George Whitman's legendary Paris book store "Shakespeare and Co."
  2. 00
    Shakespeare and Company by Sylvia Beach (sneuper)
    sneuper: Books about the bookstore Shakespeare and Company in Paris
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English (18)  Portuguese (1)  All languages (19)
Showing 1-5 of 18 (next | show all)
Canadian ex-newspaperman Jeremy Mercer was down on his luck and funds when he managed to find a berth at George Whitman's Shakespeare and Company bookstore in Paris, France in late 1999. The memoir of his stay and of the people he met was first published in 2005 as "Books, Baguettes and Bedbugs: The Left Bank World of Shakespeare and Co" and later as "Time Was Soft There." The second title comes from a passage in the book where Mercer contrasts hard and soft prison time and concludes that his Shakespeare & Co. time was "soft time."

Whitman's Shakespeare and Co. is the 2nd legendary store to bear that name after he inherited it from Sylvia Beach. Beach's original store was closed by the German occupation during WWII and never reopened afterwards. Beach was famous as the founder of the Paris english-language book store which also functioned as a lending library and mail-drop for many ex-pat writers in the 1920's & 1930's and she was also the first book-format publisher of James Joyce's "Ulysses". Whitman's store was originally called La Mistral when it opened in 1951 and the name-change came in 1964.

The overall arc of the book is Jeremy Mercer's path from down-on-his-luck writer to Shakespeare and Company veteran alongside George Whitman's search for reconciliation with his then estranged daughter Sylvia (yes, named after Sylvia Beach) Whitman. The reading journey was definitely a soft time and is recommended for book store lovers.

Further Reading:
As of July 1, 2016 there is now an official history Shakespeare and Company, Paris: A History of the Rag & Bone Shop of the Heart available online from the bookstore's website and in stores as of late September 2016. ( )
  alanteder | Jul 23, 2016 |
Mercer spent several years as a newspaper crime reporter in his native Canada, wrote a couple of true-crime books, dodged a drug charge, fell into alcoholism and finally skipped town after angering the wrong guy. He was truly burnt-out from daily facing the worst of humanity but also feared for his life. Landing in Paris, he discovered the generous and erratic George Whitman, owner of the famous Shakespeare and Company bookstore, who allowed destitute traveling writers to sleep in his store and help out with running the place. Whitman regularly provided meals and the writers, often young Bohemians, looked up to him as a mentor, though Whitman's many quirks seem to make it impossible for anyone to really get close to him.
Mercer describes how upon accepting his request to stay in the store, Whitman also told him he was responsible for evicting an old poet who had lived in the store for five years. The book tells how the many impoverished guests get by on very little or no money, learning how to pass themselves off as students for cheap meals, scavenging for thrown out food, using a cafe restroom to wash. Though he includes the confrontations and filth, the title of the book comes from Mercer's description of prison "hard time" as being the most difficult, while the time he spent at S&C as being as soft as it could be. ( )
  mstrust | Nov 27, 2012 |
I really, really liked this book. I enjoyed Paris through the eyes of the writer. I enjoyed meeting the characters that lived in Shakespeare and Co book store. I loved the owner George. I made me want to relive my youth and go and spend time living in the Paris bookstore..... ( )
  Smits | Nov 6, 2011 |
An enjoyable read, showing an insider's look at one of the World's most famous book shops. I'd love to go there one day, but now just knowing a little about George the owner, and some of the shop's history, the shop has come to be more alive for me. What a wonderful idealistic thing to do, allow complete strangers to come and live, sometimes for months at a time in your book shop, beds just scattered amongst the book shelves! ( )
  Fliss88 | Mar 26, 2011 |
If you love books this is a great store about a very interesting and historically significant bookstore. ( )
1 vote zmagic69 | Mar 13, 2011 |
Showing 1-5 of 18 (next | show all)
Tender, disenchanted, self-castigating and bittersweet, Books, Baguettes and Bedbugs is a book that is consistently surprising.
 
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It was a gray winter Sunday when I came to the bookstore.
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The title is Time Was Soft There in North America, Books, Baguettes & Bedbugs in England.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0312347405, Paperback)

Wandering through Paris's Left Bank one day, poor and unemployed, Canadian reporter Jeremy Mercer ducked into a little bookstore called Shakespeare & Co. Mercer bought a book, and the staff invited him up for tea. Within weeks, he was living above the store, working for the proprietor, George Whitman, patron saint of the city's down-and-out writers, and immersing himself in the love affairs and low-down watering holes of the shop's makeshift staff. Time Was Soft There is the story of a journey down a literary rabbit hole in the shadow of Notre Dame, to a place where a hidden bohemia still thrives.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:25:42 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

"With gangsters on his tail and his meager savings in hand, crime reporter Jeremy Mercer fled Canada in 1999 and ended up in Paris. Broke and almost homeless, he found himself invited to a tea party among the riffraff of the timeless Left Bank fantasy known as Shakespeare & Co. In its present incarnation, Shakespeare & Co. has become a destination for writers and readers the world over, trying to reclaim the lost world of literary Paris in the 1920s. Having been inspired by Sylvia Beach's original store, the present owner, George Whitman, invites writers who are down and out in Paris to live and dream amid the bookshelves in return for work. Jeremy Mercer tumbled into this literary rabbit hole, found a life of camaraderie with the other eccentric residents, and became, for a time, George Whitman's confidant and right-hand man." "Time Was Soft There is one of the stories of bohemian Paris and recalls the work of many writers who were bewitched by the City of Light in their youth. Jeremy's comrades include Simon, the eccentric British poet who refuses to give up his bed in the antiquarian book room, beautiful blonde Pia, who contributes the elegant spirit of Parisian couture to the store, the handsome American Kurt, who flirts with beautiful women looking for copies of Tropic of Cancer, and George himself, the man who holds the key to it all. As Time Was Soft There winds in and around the streets of Paris, the staff fall in and out of love, straighten bookshelves, host tea parties, drink in the more down-at-the-heels cafes, sell a few books, and help George find a way to keep his endangered bookstore open. Spend a few days with Jeremy Mercer at 37 rue de la Bucherie, and discover the bohemian world of Paris that still bustles in the shadow of Notre Dame."--BOOK JACKET.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

» see all 2 descriptions

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