I came across a Book review on the recently released The Letters of Sylvia Beach. (1887-1962) Who was Sylvia Beach? She was the founder of the Shakespeare and Company book store chain and the first publisher of James Joyce’s Ulysses. At a time when the Independent Bookstore is beyond endangered and even the future of the newspaper is in doubt I find it nostalgically riveting to look back at the good old days; especially when that era includes a woman pioneer of both Literature and Business. Here’s an excerpt from a review in the New York Times on her letters edited by Keri Walsh
“The Letters of Sylvia Beach” is a small, excellent primer on bookselling and its discontents. When world events get interesting, she complains, people buy newspapers, not books. She scrambles, during the early war years, to find fuel to keep the store habitable. And she dispels some of the profession’s romance. “A bookshop is mostly tiresome details all day long and you have to have a passion for it,” she writes, “to grub and grub in it. I have always loved books and their authors, and for the sake of them swallowed the rest of it, but you can’t expect everyone to do the same.”
It wasn’t long ago that television was seen as the technology that would erode the thoughtful world of books and reading . Now TV is shaking from the threat of being replaced by the internet. I wonder what Sylvia would think about the Kindle or Sony reader?
Speaking of which I came across this wonderful virtual tour of the first Shakespeare and Company bookstore. When it comes to the Lost Generation and the Left Bank of Paris I could almost swoon. Especially after this deliciously slow 360 degree tour of the nooks and crannies of the store.
There is further information at Wikipedia including more links on the life and times of Sylvia Beach.