Portrait of a Bookstore as an Old Man

In 2005, the Sundance Channel aired Portrait of a Bookstore as an Old Man, a 52 minute documentary that pays homage to the most famous independent bookstore in Paris, Shakespeare and Company. Sylvia Beach first opened a bookshop with that name in 1918, and it soon became a home for artists of the “Lost Generation” (Hemingway, Pound, Fitzgerald, Stein, etc.) and also famously published James Joyce’s Ulysses in 1922. The shop eventually closed during the Nazi occupation of Paris. Yet a good decade later, an eccentric American named George Whitman established another English-language bookstore on the Left Bank and eventually rechristened it Shakespeare and Company. Whitman’s shop gave sanctuary to Beat writers – Allen Ginsberg, William S. Burroughs and the rest. And it’s this incarnation of the fabled bookstore that the documentary takes as its subject. Give the documentary some time above, and be sure to watch the last five minutes – unless you already know how to cut your hair with fire. Holy smokes!

A big H/T to Mike S. for this one…



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  1. Debra Zeller says . . . | August 14, 2010 / 8:50 pm

    Love this documentary. Excellent.

  2. Peter Lukas. says . . . | April 8, 2012 / 7:51 pm

    George, the guardian of the gate for all of his Shakespeare tumble weed angels. Protector of the printed word , the defender of the bohemian faith, use what you need and give the rest away, dearest George the likes of which sadly now we will not see again. Carpe diem.

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