Before I get into that I want to report that I had so much fun at the Sustainable Living Expo 2014 held Mar 29. A few people came up to the booth asking why there was a library at the Expo. My response, “mmmm….well, I represent my store, Otter Creek Used Books, and selling a sampling of our books.” Sales were great.
So being a used bookstore nerd…
Those who know me, know my infatuation with Shakespeare & Co. I ‘connected’ with Sylvia Beach when I read about her life as a bookseller in Paris. Her story was one of persistence, courage, and skill. What a thrill to have been in Paris during her time. Not so much during the Nazi takeover but for the authors that frequented her shop. The books, the conversations… I know it was hard work for her. In my simple life I get how much busier she had to be to maintain the store’s existence and her quest to helping out struggling writers.
I have a customer who has become a good friend and a great supporter of my efforts here. He’s always coming in with ideas to help increase exposure, customers and sales. He gets the business. Used bookstores and retail. Some ideas are helpful. Some are good intentions. Some I wish I had the money at hand to take on. I take them all seriously and mull them over to see if they are viable for me. (Which comes down to no costs.) His latest was an easy one. Paris In May. Celebrating all that is French during May. Still working out ideas but one that I said I could easily do was contact Shakespeare & Company. Of course I had no idea what I’d write about or what I was asking for or expecting. But writing was easy. Until I sat down at my computer to type out an email. But I wrote I wasn’t sure what I was asking or thinking of but was hoping for some sort of connection. I guess. And to serve as an intro to Bill and his friend who will be heading over to Paris soon. Including hoping he’d buy something and bring back a receipt. (Of course he has to now.) So I clicked “send” and off went the email. Really not expecting much. But lo and behold! a few days later I got a response.
Here I am this small used bookstore. A pin dot in the map of the world. Receiving a return email from THE used bookstore in the world – to me, that is. They read my blog. Those who know me know that I get uncomfortable when people tell me they read this but when I read their email I was excited and honored. They admired my perseverance and devotion to books. And I touched them all. They wrote that! They mentioned my move and the photos of the space here in the Marble Works and that we (as booksellers) and books need light and how it looks so warm and welcoming. Then they wrote about not waiting for Bill to bring me back something but was sending me a parcel. And they did. Here is what I received:
George Whitman must have been an amazing bookseller. Definitely. He picked up where Sylvia Beach had left off. His visiting authors were Lawrence Durrell! Styron, Henry Miller, Saroyan, James Baldwin! Oh my, his list is just as long as impressive. I’ve been devouring the book photos and pulling out ideas to try out in the store: Mirror of Love, for instance, and a writer’s nook but of course, more reflective of this store. Pity the next customer who buys Dostoevky’s The Idiot!
His daughter, Sylvia is now taking over the store. And yes, she is named after THE Sylvia. And is currently working on the history of the store as well as managing the store in her father’s absence. And she is gaining in fame with her impressive list of modern authors.
“Heaven is a place with books and cherry trees,” was their last sentence in their email response to me. Doesn’t that just conjure a beautiful image? I don’t have a cherry tree – yet – but I’m working on one in my fashion that will be ready for May.
“Books are works of the imagination, aren’t they? So, a bookshop should reflect the imagination,” George Whitman (1913-2011), Shakespeare & Co, Paris.
That is my motivator.