The clatter of silverware from Le Petit Châtelet next door rang in the background as I watched pure happiness sweep over my wife’s eyes. She lifted a copy of Ulysses from a display table like it was something precious, something pure. Indeed, she’d been looking forward to this moment for our entire honeymoon and it had finally come—we were going to purchase a dusty edition of Joyce’s masterpiece from Shakespeare and Company, the place where the book had originally been published and the author’s favorite bookstore.
We left the store with the book (and a few other goodies) and strode out onto the brick-paved Rue de la Bûcherie full of life and love and all those other mushie-gushie feelings that arise on one’s honeymoon.
The only thing that could have made this moment better would have been the opportunity to sit down instantly and dive into Joyce’s mind. Sure, there were cafés all around, but to actually sit near the store and begin reading with the gentle slush of the Seine in the background would have been absolutely wonderful.
It turns out we were about three years too early. Shakespeare and Company recently announced that the long-vacant building beside the venerable establishment has been renovated and is opening as a café set to serve literary-inspired delicacies (I’m especially excited about the Salinger-esque Love and Squalor pie.)
Personally, I’m kind of upset they didn’t get this renovation pushed through earlier so my wife and I could enjoy it. But I am happy that it’s happening at all since it’s reportedly been in the works since the 1970s.
So here’s to Shakespeare and Company, the world’s best bookstore and, since my wife will undoubtedly hear about the new café, the probable site of our fifth anniversary vacation.
If you’re visiting Paris soon, rejoice in the bohemian nature of this news and memorize the phrase, “Je voudrais un café et une copie d’Ulysse s’il vous plait.”