I fell in love with Shakespeare And Company the first time I set foot in Paris when I was barely 18. The bookstore, located in the 5th arrondissement, on Rue de la Bucherie, was a bibliophile’s paradise. The brown, timeworn facade, its windows covered with numerous posters of literary and cultural events, was irresistibly inviting. Stacks and racks of books welcomed you at the entrance where a slew of youngsters browsed through the books and magazines or sat under the majestic tree adorning the pavement and attempted to become part of its history. Since then, for me Shakespeare And Company has become synonymous with Paris and I have visited the bookstore every time I have stayed in Paris. I have seen the city change, but Shakespeare And Company has remained the same and the few new wrinkles has added something new to its almost hundred year old charm.
This afternoon, when I visited the bookstore again, the place had yet more of a significance to me. A few days before leaving Los Angeles, I had tried to buy a David Sedaris book, for a light read on the plane, and as I looked for a bookstore around my neighborhood, I was stunned to realize that there were no bookstores left in Sherman Oaks, or the Valley in general. At a time when electronic tablets, eBooks and Kindles have taken over, and books have become novelties, Shakespeare And Company has turned into a Mecca, a historical relic of some sort, which reminds one of the days when books were still considered sources of wisdom, knowledge and entertainments and had their special place on pedestals called book shelves. Now, as I write these lines, sitting at a cafe a block away from my favorite bookstore, a young mother sits at the table across from me. Her little girl, hardly 6, opens an impressively large book and starts reading. A breeze of optimism blows my way and I think to myself “All is not lost yet.”