February 12, 2017

Books in Paris



      I always stop at La Librairie des Alpes to look at the dozens of items in the window. How does a bookstore devoted to books and ephemera on mountains manage to survive? The bearded bookseller in hat and scarf says hello. He's friendly; we talk. It's my first time in the shop. 'You don't have to be an alpinist to come into the store,' he says. I buy a book from the thirties of scenic Mont Blanc photos.
      The bouquinistes have opened their boxes. Some sell Eiffel Tower key rings and 'I Love Paris' magnets, but most maintain the traditional stock of second-hand books and botanical prints ad vintage postcards. By law each box is two metres long and painted the dark green of old train cars. They've been around in some form since the 17th century and are still in demand. It takes years for a box to become available. Today they seem more aimed at the tourist, but I would miss them if they were not there. I would like to have a bouquiniste's box for my favorite books.
      Of the thousands of bookstores in France, half it seems are in Paris. French celebrates writers as Germans celebrate composers as Americans celebrate celebrities. There are palatial museum bookcases full of richly illustrated books with titles like The Hat in Medieval Art. Shops with somber Gallimard books on politics and philosophy with clinical covers. Shops with little room to move, bit lots of charm and second hand Fitzgeralds and Mann in French or the odd Graham Greene in classic orange Penguin.
      There must be a dozen places devoted to English books, but there is also one for Polish books on the Boulevard Saint-Germain which has been around a century or more. There is, not surprisingly, Librairie Gourmande and La Musardine, an erotic bookstore. There is L'Hammartan, which has books on Africa, and La Librairie du Jardin, a narrow cave of a place just inside the Concorde gate of the Tuileries that has thousands of books on gardens.
from Paris in winter:  an illustrated memoir, by David Coggins


Books, art, food, walks, cafes, rented apartments where one {the Cogginses or moi} can pretend to be Parisian, and a happy number of familiar places ... a lovely book to curl up with on a cold and snowy weekend.



Paris in Winter:  an illustrated memoir, by David Coggins
powerHouse Books, 2015
Borrowed from the Boston Athenaeum

2 comments:

Bellezza said...

Just an escape I dream of. Even if we can only take it vicariously, it is still lovely to think about.

Wish I had time for the Pallisters with you and JoAnn. The Man Booker International Prize long list is announced in a month, and something in which I "must" partake, but I enjoy your tweets about Trollope.

JoAnn said...

Don't think I'd mind a snowy weekend with that book and some tea, either... and maybe a little Trollope, too! It's yet another snow day in central NY, so I'm very happy to be down here. Heading out for a beach walk with Mr. T soon:)