Category: French Culture
371 Paris Bookseller Transcript
This is Join Us in France episode 371 Trois cent soixante et onze. Bonjour, I’m Annie Sargent, and Join Us in France is the podcast where we talk about France. Everyday life in France. Great places to visit in France, French culture, history, gastronomy, and news related to travel during the pandemic. Today, I bring you a conversation with Kerri Maher about her new book, The Paris Bookseller.
I wanted to talk to Kerri because I really enjoyed her book about Shakespeare and Company, the iconic bookstore in Paris. It’s a fascinating story.
After the interview, we’ll have my personal update and some news about travel to France. This podcast is supported by donors and listeners who buy my tours and services, including my very popular itinerary planning service. You can browse all of that at annie’s boutique: https://joinusinfrance.com/boutique.
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[00:01:23] Annie Sargent: Bonjour Kerri Maher and welcome to Join Us in France
[00:02:03] Kerri Maher: Bonjour, and thank you so much for having me. I’m excited to be here.
[00:02:07] Annie Sargent: It’s a pleasure to have you because your publisher sent me your book and I really loved it. I don’t normally do interviews with authors, but your book just grabbed me. And I’m really excited to talk to you about it and ask you the questions that were still lingering in my mind. If you don’t mind.
[00:02:27] Kerri Maher: Oh, no, I can’t wait to hear what questions are still lingering and thank you for reading it. And I’m so thrilled that you liked it
[00:02:34] Annie Sargent: Could we start with you reading just a little bit of it, like to give us a taste of it.
[00:02:40] Kerri Maher: Yes, I will do that.
[00:02:41] Kerri Maher: It was hard not to feel that Paris was the place Sylvia had been, trying to get back for 15 years ever since the Beach family had lived there, when her father Sylvester was the pastor of the American church in the Latin quarter. And she was a romantic teenager who couldn’t get enough of Balzac or cassoulet. What she remembered most about that time, which she carried in her heart when her family had to return to the United States was the sense that the French capital was brighter than any other city she’d been in or could ever be in.
[00:03:11] Kerri Maher: It was more than the flickering gas lamps that illuminated the city after dark. Or that ineluctable glowing white stone from which so much of the city was built. It was the brilliance of the life burbling and every fountain, every student meeting, every puppet show in the Jardin du Luxembourg and opera and the Théâtre de l’Odéon.
[00:03:29] Kerri Maher: It was the way her mother sparkled with life read books and hosted professors, politicians, and actors serving them rich glistening dishes by candlelight and dinners where they were. There was spirited debate about books and world events. Eleanor Beach and told her three daughters, Cyprian, Sylvia, and Holly, that they were living in the most rare and wonderful places. And it would change the course of their lives forever.
[00:03:53] Annie Sargent: Indeed. And she changed Paris as well. So, so your novel, thank you so much for reading that you’re no, you’re all, you know, it grabbed me because probably cause you mentioned cassoulet and I’m from Toulouse and so I know cassoulet city, so it might be that, but I just like the language and the fact that it starts with so much excitement about what’s about to happen, which is wonderful..
[00:04:23] Kerri Maher: Sylvia was such an adventurer, you know, she talks in her own memoir about feeling like an adventurous when she comes to Paris and I really wanted to impart something of that, like excitement and like possibility, but everything being new when she gets there and you know, the war, the first world war is coming to a close.
[00:04:41] Kerri Maher: Yeah. When I started the book. I thought at first I thought it was going to be a lesbian romance to tell you the truth, because there is a lesbian romance part of this, but it’s not, I mean, not really because it’s, I mean, it’s the sort of novel where, you know, they touch and kiss and then they couldn’t feel in any happier. End of chapter. And then, you know,
[00:05:09] Kerri Maher: We closed the door on them.
[00:05:10] Annie Sargent: Right. We don’t get to see that bit. And so it’s very well done and it’s really never uncomfortable. I think for people. I, you know, not used to lesbian love stories yeah.
[00:05:25] Kerri Maher: Or any sex in their novels. Right. You know, like I think that the way I handle Sylvia and Andrienne’s romances, like the way I would have handled a heterosexual romance as well. Right. Like I tend to close the door on those scenes in general.
[00:05:40] Annie Sargent: Right.. And it’s, and you do it very well. I would like you to introduce us to this cast of characters, because the second thing that happened as I kept reading was that I thought this author is just dropping names now, and then you kept dropping more and more names.
[00:06:01] Annie Sargent: I can’t believe this. And then eventually I realized that we were talking about Shakepeare & Company. Cause you don’t really start with that. You know? I didn’t know anything I had no a priori about your book. I was like just reading it and I didn’t even know what it was going to be about.
[00:06:19] Kerri Maher: Oh my goodness.
[00:06:20] Annie Sargent: I know. I know nothing great. It’s always like, oh, it’s about Shakepeare & Company. I can’t believe this. And so then I wanted to read and read. So it was just a very fun. So anyway, I would love for you to introduce us to the cast of characters.
[00:06:36] Kerri Maher: Okay. Well, so the most important character and the perspective that the book is told from is Sylvia Beach, who is the American woman who, oh, you know, I was just reading from her point of view in the opening chapter who comes to Paris in 1917.
[00:06:53] Kerri Maher: And in 1919 opens the original Shakepeare & Company bookstore in Paris and it is truly the home of the lost generation writers. So I couldn’t help but drop all those names because they were all her friends. It was really kind of remarkable. And so, but, and I would say the the other two most important characters are Adrienne Monnier who is, as we sort of been talking around Sylvia’s romantic partner. But also really importantly, like her, like a business partner, they don’t, they. Really share funds. Exactly. But Adrienne opened a bookstore and lending library, a French language bookstore lending library in this little part of Paris in the in the Latin Quarter, in 1915, when she was just in her mid twenties.
[00:07:40] Kerri Maher: And she was one of the very, very first bookstores owners to who was a woman in France. And Sylvia was so inspired by Adrienne’s store. That was really part of the reason she opened Shakepeare & Company. She fell in love with Adrienne and Adrienne’s world and wanted to offer that to, for books in English.
[00:08:02] Kerri Maher: And, you know, initially she had no idea that the twenties were going to explode into this. Moment. Right. So, you know originally she really felt like she was opening the store for the French intellectuals who went to Adrienne store who were hungry for books in English. And couldn’t get them at this time.
[00:08:24] Kerri Maher: You know, it was, she was the very first English. Sure in London, library and Paris. And so what she was offering, the French intellectual community was really very unique. And then of course they become Shakespeare and company, which is like the home away from home of a lost generation writers in the twenties and thirties.
[00:08:42] Kerri Maher: And then the, I would say the other most important character is James Joyce, the Irish writer who, you know, spends most of his adult life between Switzerland and France and live most of the, just about all of the 1920s in Paris and as a frequent visitor to Shakespeare and company, he is also a.
[00:09:04] Kerri Maher: And he and Sylvia are fast friends. They both have a mutual love of language. There’s all these great stories in Sylvia’s memoir. And in other reflections on Shakespeare and company about, you know the word game that Sylvia James Joyce would play together in the store, I can only imagine how much fun they had.
[00:09:23] Kerri Maher: Oh, you did get to imagine how much fun they had. But but then of course, James Joyce wrote his Magnum Opus lists Ulysses. And it was put on trial for obscenity in 1921 in New York city. And as a result of it, because it was banned, it was convicted of obscenity and banned.
[00:09:44] Annie Sargent: Before it was even written.
[00:09:46] Kerri Maher: Well, it wasn’t complete.
[00:09:47] Kerri Maher: So, so it had been serialized in an avant-garde literary journal out of the village in New York. And actually this is actually one of the great. This is not a huge spoiler. And then I liked it. I liked to talk about this because you know, Joyce and his book, were not actually put on trial. It was the two women publishers of the literary journal, Margaret Anderson and Jane heap, who were put on trial for publishing it.
[00:10:16] Annie Sargent: Oh.
[00:10:17] Kerri Maher: And they were the ones who. Were fine. Who were convicted effectively. But as a result, as an extension of that, Ulysse’s became a book. And so Sylvia from her perch in Paris thought, well, Shoot, you know I think this is a really important novel. I think it needs to be out there in the world.
[00:10:40] Kerri Maher: You know, she had been reading it in installments and loving it. So she offers to publish it and she finds a French printer who’s willing to print it. And then she has to figure out how to smuggle it back into the United States. As I like to say, alongside the illegal liquor cause of this, you know, the twenties it’s prohibition.
[00:10:59] Annie Sargent: Yes. It’s funny because she finds a printer in Dijon which is not super far away from Paris, but it’s not Paris. And it would be so hard for, because in those days the printer had to actually line up all the letters. Right. I mean it wasn’t. Yeah. Something that you did on the computer and somebody who didn’t, whose English was not his language, it would have been really difficult, I think.
[00:11:29] Kerri Maher: Yes. And you know, and again, this is in much more detail in the book, but Joyce actually also winds up writing. Third of the book on the page proofs. So after the printer in Dijon has already gone and like gone through all the trouble of setting, the type in everything sends Sylvia, the pages just for approval.
[00:11:50] Kerri Maher: He, she gives them to Joyce and Joyce winds up like, like scribbling and crossing things out and making changes and, you know, it was quite an ordeal.
[00:11:59] Annie Sargent: Right . And Adrienne we’ve talked about Adrienne before but she is really a mentor to Julia and you know, they’re partners in life, but they’re also, she’s also her mentor and she helps her find, you know, all the she’s actually the one who finds a place.
[00:12:19] Annie Sargent: Cause she’s thinking about moving her own shop and she. I ended up discussing it with Sylvia. I think that’s how it goes. And Sylvia says, yes, I’ll I that’s it. I’m going to open a bookstore.
[00:12:34] Kerri Maher: Right. Well, so yeah, so, Adrienne originally Shakespeare and company is opened around the block from, this is one of those little known facts about Shakespeare and company Paris.
[00:12:45] Kerri Maher: So, you know, so the it’s actually, it has. The three locations and two owners in his lifetime. And if you go to Paris bay and you go to the Shakespeare and company bookstore that exists in Paris today, which is a magical and wonderful place, with a wonderful history of its own. That is not the original, nor is it in the location of either of Sylvia’s two stores.
[00:13:08] Annie Sargent: Right
[00:13:08] Kerri Maher: So Sylvia had two locations. The first one, she was only in for two years or maybe even 18. And it was on the rue Dupuytren, which was around the corner from Adrienne store. Adrienne’s store, which was called La Maison des Amis des Livres and you have to excuse my French. Literally I do my best.
[00:13:28] Kerri Maher: So the house of the friends of book to her store had always been located on the rue de l’Odéon and so the Dupuytren trend was around the corner. And so as soon as the opportunity for Sylvia to move her store across the street from Adrienne on the Odéon came about, she did it immediately. And then in many ways, The two stores, the French language store and the English language store almost functioned as one store.
[00:13:56] Kerri Maher: You know, there was a great amount of cross-pollination of the customers in both who went back and forth between both. And someone was looking for something. Maybe Sylvia didn’t have it, but Adrienne might you know, so they really did function together.
[00:14:14] Kerri Maher: In fact, I didn’t realize that the name Dupuytren was the name of a famous French surgeon. Is that correct?
[00:14:20] Annie Sargent: Yeah. Yeah.
[00:14:22] Kerri Maher: I didn’t know that.
[00:14:23] Annie Sargent: Yeah. And if you go to the Hotel Dieu near the location, right by Notre Dame, there’s a statue. There’s another statue of, Dupuytren in the courtyard of the hospital and the medical students always dress him up.
[00:14:41] Kerri Maher: That is so funny!,
[00:14:44] Annie Sargent: He’s always got funny things on, so yeah he’s a famous guy and so and l’Odéon is obviously is the big theater Not very far from there. So yeah. So it all takes place in the Latin quarter. Well, it’s kind of the hinge between the Latin quarter and do the Saint Germain des Prés it’s right there at the right, but it’s a lovely area of Paris with a lot of bookstores. Actually Place de l’Odéon today is where there are still… Is it Larousse that’s there or one of the other ones anyway, there’s massive
[00:15:22] Kerri Maher: ,There are many
[00:15:23] Annie Sargent: yeah. All, a lot of the French publishers are in that area to this day. So it’s an interesting place. And of course, this is a place where people read books and French people, even today read a lot of books.
[00:15:37] Annie Sargent: As a matter of fact, I find it difficult to, because I like to buy my books on Kindle. I got converted to Kindle long ago and they, the
[00:15:46] Kerri Maher: it’s a wonderful device. I read on Kindle a lot too.
[00:15:49] Annie Sargent: Right. And the thing is French books are often not available on Kindle, but what I have to do is I have to go to amazon.com the US site, and sometimes the publisher makes it available on Kindle in French, on the US site, but not on the French site. Ain’t that crazy?
[00:16:08] Kerri Maher: That is crazy.
[00:16:10] Annie Sargent: But anyway
[00:16:11] Kerri Maher: ,That is bizarre!.
[00:16:13] Annie Sargent: I hope you’re I’m sure your book will be well placed in all the bookstores. It’ll be fine.
[00:16:20] Kerri Maher: I hope so. I hope so. It has actually done, I mean, it has sold at a number of foreign markets as well, so that’s really exciting.
[00:16:27] Annie Sargent: Yeah.
[00:16:28] Kerri Maher: It’ll be out in Germany and Spain and Italy. It’ll certainly the English language version will be available at the, there are a number of wonderful English language bookstores in Paris, as I’m sure you know, there’s of course, Shakespeare and company. And then there is also the red wheelbarrow and you know, a handful of others.
[00:16:46] Annie Sargent: So you have a wonderful cast of characters in the book and some of them, I mean there’s all kinds of tensions, right?
[00:16:56] Kerri Maher: So one of the big name, you know, that’s an, it’s an important. Secondary character in the book is Ernest Hemingway and, you know, Hemingway and Sylvia were very good friends, their whole lives from the time that they met in 1921. And I think part of the reason they were such good friends, they also played all the fun word games and life had this mutual love of languages and all the things, but, you know, Ernest really did all also try to.
[00:17:21] Kerri Maher: Blend in, you know, and he really embraced France and French culture in a way that not all of the Americans who came and went from there, did Ernest did. And so did Joyce. And it was for them, it was more, and for Sylvia, you know, it was more than just language. Right. You know, I mean, Sylvia effectively lived a married life with a French woman. And so she was, you know, fully integrated
[00:17:44] Annie Sargent: Was her French good, do you know?
[00:17:47] Kerri Maher: Oh, yes. Okay. Yes. I’m sure, you know, It was already very good when she got there. And I have to imagine that within a few years she spoken like a native,
[00:17:57] Annie Sargent: right. Because if she was here, if she was in France while she was a kid, my father was, you know, a pastor she grew up. Right. If she grew up as a kid in France, she probably spoke it flawlessly. Yes. Yep. Yeah. Good points.
[00:18:11] Kerri Maher: But she wasn’t there for very, she wasn’t there for very long. It was only about a year, but like she had an abiding and lifelong love of language, like reading and languages, words were kind of her thing. So I think she just had an ear and kind of a gift for it,
[00:18:24] Annie Sargent: but it’s interesting. Yeah. Her father supported her in this endeavor of starting the Shakespeare and company, even though he was right. Even though he was a. A religious man. And you know, you think of a pastor as someone who wasn’t all that keen on his daughter’s sexuality or the people she hung out with, because there was a lot of.
[00:18:52] Annie Sargent: You know, live and let live in those circles, but he didn’t write exactly. Either. You didn’t know or you didn’t care. I don’t know.
[00:19:00] Kerri Maher: Yeah. You know it’s hard to know. It’s hard to know, but what seems pretty clear, you know, from the research that I did is that, you know, Sylvia, you know, one of the Sylvia sisters Cyprienne also wound up living most of her adult life with a woman out in California.
[00:19:16] Kerri Maher: And they, this was not. A problem, the way that we might define it today, you know they. This is a hundred years ago. And one of the things that I thought was sort of interesting in my research is that, , being queer, whatever form that took a hundred years ago, it was really a very different thing than it is now.
[00:19:42] Kerri Maher: But one of the amazing things. France, which I also learned is that same sex relations had been decriminalized in France from the time of the French revolution.
[00:19:53] Annie Sargent: Right.
[00:19:54] Kerri Maher: And so that made Paris a kind of safe Haven for safe, same sex couples in the 20th century.
[00:20:02] Annie Sargent: Yes. Revolution. That’s one of the things that he did. Yes. And they allowed divorce as well. And then of course, then Napoleon reversed it.
[00:20:09] Kerri Maher: Both things?
[00:20:11] Annie Sargent: I think so. I think so Napoleon was not enlightened in many ways.
[00:20:18] Kerri Maher: No, he was not that’s true.
[00:20:20] Annie Sargent: Yeah, it’s an interesting thing. So one thing that I was curious about is what’s a lending library because I don’t really know how they work.
[00:20:30] Kerri Maher: Well, so I think it’s just a way of maybe saying not a free public library. Like they are in America. You know, so, so Sylvia, it was a subscription library. So you would effectively take out a subscription to her, the library portion of her store. And then you would get to check out as many books as you wanted in the course of a year.
[00:20:54] Kerri Maher: And I, you know, people would renew their memberships. And so. You can actually, and this is so cool. This has been my it’s described a little bit more in my author’s note, but so Sylvia left because her father was affiliated with Princeton university. She left all of her papers to Princeton University.
[00:21:10] Kerri Maher: Including all of her library cards, where she kept records of what everybody checked out from the winery portion of Shakespeare and company. And so, and they’ve digitized them all. And so you can go to the Shakespeare and company project out of Princeton university, and you can search for any of these writers.
[00:21:31] Kerri Maher: Ernest Hemingway James Joyce, Gertrude Stein Ezra Pound and find out what they checked out in any given year. And they also not only have, I like digitize the information, so like just the information will pop up for you, but also you can see a like scanned photo copy or picture. Of the actual card where Sylvia or one of her, helpmeets in the store would have actually written down what that person checked out. That’s really neat.
[00:22:02] Annie Sargent: Wow. That’s very cool. Gertrude Stein has some interesting interactions with the other people. First of all, I didn’t realize that she never learned French. I learned that in your novel.
[00:22:15] Kerri Maher: She, no, I think she does know French she’s just not integrated into French society in the same way. But like Sylvia and and and Hemmingway and Joyce all were.
[00:22:27] Annie Sargent: And it’s crazy that even painters came to Shakespeare and company. I mean you mentioned Picasso coming by and the different, I mean, the lights, so who’s who of, you know,
[00:22:38] Kerri Maher: it really is. I mean, it was such a remarkable place for the two decades that it was open.
[00:22:44] Kerri Maher: It was really, I mean, like lightning in a bottle, kind of amazing moment you know, we’re so lucky that she thought to open the store and open her doors and her heart to all of these writers and other artists.
[00:22:59] Annie Sargent: So I must confess that I did not read Ulysse’s.
[00:23:02] Annie Sargent: That’s okay. I think that’s actually something I want to say out loud, you don’t need to have read or even plan to ever read Ulysses to enjoy the Paris Bookseller.
[00:23:11] Annie Sargent: Oh, absolutely. Yeah. Because one of the things she liked about it is that it was train of thought and that style of writing that I find very difficult to follow, but it was high art at the time.
[00:23:25] Kerri Maher: Exactly.
[00:23:26] Annie Sargent: But yeah, it’s hard to read today, you know and th the one thing that towards the end of the book, you mentioned the great Gatsby and that’s the competitor to Ulysse’s.
[00:23:39] Annie Sargent: And I actually did read the great Gatsby and I was like, huh, that book is like, why is it so famous? Because it’s not that I didn’t love it as much. Yeah, well, you know, at least the great Gatsby is short, right? Yeah. So as compared to Ulysses, which is something of a doorstop, but I must admit, I do love the great Gatsby is always been one of my favorite books.
[00:24:04] Annie Sargent: I’m actually due to reread that again. I think sometime soon I’d like to, it’s been a long time since I’ve. The last go. But you know, I get it like, you know, these books, they were, they are a hundred years old now, these books. So they are no matter how well we feel like they hold up. You know they wouldn’t be written the same way today.
[00:24:24] Annie Sargent: Right. You know, Nick Carroway and Jay Gatsby and Daisy Buchanan would all be handled differently now.
[00:24:30] Annie Sargent: Yeah. And really one of the things that motivated Sylvia was, she was just outraged at censorship. She just, and she bit off a huge thing. I’m not sure she really realized what she was getting into.
[00:24:48] Kerri Maher: No, she did not. And she’s the first to admit that in her own memoir, she basically she’s like, I don’t recommend anyone go about publishing. Like I did, you know, she wouldn’t have traded it for anything in the world. It was another adventure for her, right? Like she really, she met it with Gusto and appetite and all the things.
[00:25:07] Kerri Maher: But she’s the first to admit that she was, it was not. She knew what she was doing. She learned she was learning it as she went along.
[00:25:15] Annie Sargent: Right. It reminded me of some of the people I’ve talked to were self-published and who just had to learn all of these crafts. This is a lot of stuff to learn uh, the book out.
[00:25:29] Annie Sargent: And it was even more difficult back then.
[00:25:32] Kerri Maher: Yes, exactly. Yeah. No. She was everything. I mean, she was not just the publisher. Right. She was on some level, the editor, she was the promoter, the marketer you know, the tr you know, she oversaw translations. She did absolutely everything.
[00:25:49] Kerri Maher: Yeah. That’s a whole team of people would do for a thing.
[00:25:54] Annie Sargent: Absolutely. I think, I mean, you don’t mention it in the book. I don’t think, but you know, like the, when she finally gets the printed, the first prints, she’s delighted with how the book turned out. And she probably had a lot, I mean, you don’t describe her choosing paperweight and you know, all of the.
[00:26:16] Annie Sargent: The things that you have to do when you’re going to print a book, maybe she left it to the printer to, to make those decisions. But it was, I would love to see a first edition of Ulysses. You know
[00:26:28] Kerri Maher: I think that the New York public library actually has. Ah, has some first editions. I don’t know whether they’re not there currently on the display or not, but, you know, I’m hoping that there might be some opportunities for people to see some of these first editions because we’re going to be celebrating the hundredth anniversary of Sylvia’s and edition of Ulysses in February of 2022.
[00:26:51] Kerri Maher: So. I think if they’re going to be opportunities to see them, probably not hold them while I look at them behind a glass this is it’s coming up soon.
[00:27:01] Annie Sargent: That’d be a lot of fun. So one thing that surprised me a little bit in the dialogue. So your book has a lot of dialogue and obviously. You weren’t there to record the dialogue.
[00:27:12] Annie Sargent: I assume nobody recorded dialogue. So, so there’s, I mean it’s it’s historical fiction, right? Is that how you categorize it?
[00:27:20] Kerri Maher: Yeah.
[00:27:20] Annie Sargent: Right. So, which is totally fine. I prefer that too. You know, there’s some historians who are they would never make up dialogue because that’s making.
[00:27:32] Kerri Maher: But nonfiction, this is definitely fiction.
[00:27:35] Kerri Maher: Right, but I, at one point you have Pound saying America is a shit place to be an artist these days. And maybe it was for a while. It changed. It’s not that way anymore. But it’s maybe maybe it was easier in France. I don’t know.
[00:27:57] Kerri Maher: Yeah. Well, I do. I mean, you know, like that there were these forces of censorship really at work in America during these years, these post-war years, you know, the espionage and Comstock act were just excuses to, you know, strangle any, anything that just smelled of like immigration or, you know, anything other than just.
[00:28:20] Kerri Maher: Upper middle-class. I mean, you know upper cross, you know, white America. And so, you know, artists who were kind of trying to embrace, The fuller experience of life and really try to portray what it is like to be a human being in this post-war time. We’re really censored, you know, I mean like Joyce,
[00:28:43] Kerri Maher: ulysse’s has many new and brave things about it. But one of them is the, sort of incredible honesty with which he was willing to portray the functions of the body people were just not ready for that. Right. Some people were, you know, all of these writers of the twenties were Sylvia was Adrienne was Ezra was.
[00:29:03] Kerri Maher: But there were really powerful forces that wanted to silence that kind of honesty. Especially if it happened to also smack of anything foreign, you know, so Joyce, , it was a problem that he was Irish. And, you know, he lived on the continent of Europe.
[00:29:21] Kerri Maher: There was a lot of mistrust of anarchists and communists and all the ists of this time period. So there was just a lot of mistrust, which I think made it hard to produce art,
[00:29:33] Annie Sargent: but at the same time and made it great for Sylvia. because all of these wonderful people came to her store and the store was just barely getting started when she had this wild hair to publish Ulysses and the book, just the process just about bankrupted her because it was really expensive to, you know, she really bit off a big project, and she didn’t have the financial wherewithal.
[00:30:07] Annie Sargent: To do this, I mean, she pulled it off and at the same time, it’s also the book that once it was published, brought a lot of attention and notoriety to the store and made it into what it is. Today still.
[00:30:22] Kerri Maher: Yeah, no I think that’s exactly right. Although, you know, there’s sort of a spoiler in here that I don’t want to, don’t want to drop, but the store let’s just say evolve and Sylvia learn to evolve with it.
[00:30:37] Kerri Maher: And I think She’s S if she’s nothing else, she is super resilient. And I think that the, you know the biting off more than she can chew and then just thinking, well, gosh, darn it. I’m going to chew it like this because what I bit off and I’m going to do it, you know, she there’s a real resilience there.
[00:30:55] Annie Sargent: I was really sad for them when they had to sell the Citroen.
[00:30:58] Kerri Maher: I know. They love that car. They really did. They didn’t have it for very long.
[00:31:04] Annie Sargent: Right there’s bits like that where you’re like, oh geez, that’s just. Yeah, it happens, you know, people she really wanted to do this and she was, I mean, she was just determined that woman must have been a force of nature. I, but she was physically petite, right?
[00:31:24] Kerri Maher: Yes. She was physically petite.. Adrienne was like a little bit taller and bigger, in most dimensions. But and actually Adrienne, and although, as you said earlier, was very much a sort of a mentor to Sylvia. She was actually five years younger than Sylvia.
[00:31:40] Annie Sargent: Oh, wow.
[00:31:40] Kerri Maher: Which is, you know, something, I don’t make a big thing out of it in the book, but yeah. I mean, so, you know, Andrea knew who she was and what she wanted to do from a very young age. And had like really kind of wonderful and. The support from her family, her parents and her sister you know, financial as well as emotional support in opening her bookstore in 1915, like in the middle of the war, in Paris.
[00:32:07] Kerri Maher: So, I think even though she was younger than Sylvia she did act either the kind of mentor or in some ways like Sylvia was a little older and still trying to figure out who she was and what she wanted to do.
[00:32:20] Annie Sargent: She hesitates for a while. She’s like, oh, maybe I could open a French bookstore in New York.
[00:32:27] Kerri Maher: Right.
[00:32:27] Annie Sargent: But she decides not to, which is good because. They wouldn’t have been together. None of this would have happened if she had done that.
[00:32:34] Kerri Maher: No, none of what would happened. We have, we are so grateful for these two expensive rents in New York are still too expensive. Like really? It was a financial decision.
[00:32:44] Kerri Maher: I mean, I think that if she had been able to find that space in New York, so she probably would have done that. But she couldn’t and thank goodness for all of us.
[00:32:54] Kerri Maher: Eventually it all worked out. She published a book. Well, they’d got complicated at the end, but I’m not going to spoil it.
[00:33:01] Kerri Maher: So I remember going in front of the current Shakespearian company, and there’s a big old Walt Whitman quote. Outside. There’s like a big wooden thing. That’s carved with a Walt Whitman quote. Do you know anything about that? You know, I, I I don’t know very much about that, but I ha so the current Shakespeare and company I’m in Paris, which is like, just like such in such an amazing location, you know, it’s right across.
[00:33:32] Kerri Maher: The, like the Seine from Notre Dame. So, you can buy your book and have a cup of coffee and look at the look at Notre Dame. So so it opened in 1951 under a different name. It was called Le Mistral. And by this time by 1951, Sylvia store had been closed for a decade and Sylvia, and it was opened by an American man named George Whitman.
[00:33:55] Kerri Maher: No relationship to Walt Whitman an irony. But. Sylvia as you know, from reading, my novel was a huge Walt Whitman fan. It’s just really big. She loved Walt Whitman. And so did James Joyce. And so. She, and in fact she did in 1926, she hosted her own kind of exhibition of like Walt Whitman books and ephemera that she had collected over the years.
[00:34:23] Kerri Maher: And so it was kind of a big deal when she did that in 1926. So the current Shakespeare country. Was rechristened Shakespeare and company from Le Mistral in the early 60s on the 400 anniversary of Shakespeare’s birth. But it was also very much meant as an homage to Sylvia’s original store. And so even though the Sylvia’s original and the current Shakespeare and company are not related shaped, the current Shakespeare and company is clearly.
[00:34:53] Kerri Maher: Aware of its own history and of its name. Right. And so, you know, there are, if you go inside, there are plaques and other, you know and pictures of Sylvia and the original store. So, it fosters that tie but at the same time that it has its own really wonderful. History. They have often hosted writers who they called tumbleweeds, who blow through Paris on their quest to write their own poetry and novels and things.
[00:35:27] Kerri Maher: And some of those tumbleweeds actually work in the store. So you know, it has its own really magical history. So I have to imagine. That’s the that the Walt Whitman quote on the outside of the store is one of those ties to Sylvia
[00:35:42] Annie Sargent: probably is. I really never have, I haven’t looked at this very much because I write Paris tours with for an App. And before the pandemic started, I was just starting to research the tour I want to do of the Latin quarter. And so I, it was on my list of things to research what that Walt Whitman quote was, but I didn’t get to it yet. So it’s an interesting but it’s a beautiful part of Paris.
[00:36:10] Annie Sargent: I mean, honestly it really need to, it’s a bit loud. I’m very happy that the current mayor is really trying to reduce the number of cars in Paris, because right in front of the Shakespeare and company, there it’s like a madhouse of cars and sirens. And because the. There’s a big legal what’d you call it la Préfecture de Paris is across there.
[00:36:39] Annie Sargent: And so you always have cop cars coming and going. It’s just loud.
[00:36:43] Kerri Maher: Oh, I didn’t realize that.
[00:36:45] Annie Sargent: Yeah. It’s very loud. And so it’s going to be much nicer 10 years from now. They don’t let so many cars through there. I would love that. Yeah, they’re doing a lot of tunneling under Parisit’s a huge mess, obviously, but hopefully it’ll relieve some of the traffic that’s there today and yeah that’s complicated. Making everybody’s life complicated.
[00:37:10] Kerri Maher: I did get to go there in 2019 before the world shut down. And I was doing the early stages of research for my book. And so I got to walk around all these places and it was just amazing.
[00:37:21] Annie Sargent: Are you a Francophile or what gave you the idea to develop this?
[00:37:25] Kerri Maher: I, you know I have been to France a handful of times. I’ve been to Paris multiple times in my life. And I absolutely love it. I’m not sure I would call myself a Francophile. I’m not sure I’m knowledgeable enough to take up that mantle, but I. I’ve actually been carrying Sylvia story around in my heart and mind for most of my life.
[00:37:45] Kerri Maher: When I was an undergrad in college, I was a, you know, an English major who was obsessed with the writers of the 1920s in particular, you know, this ex-pat community. I went to UC Berkeley out in California. And so I was, you know, wandering around the bookstores on Telegraph avenue one day.
[00:38:03] Kerri Maher: Rummaging around and, you know, the used book bins outside the stores. And I found like a used edition of her memoir, which is called Shakespeare and company. And I thought I bought it and I thought, oh, you know, I’ll enjoy this. I like this time period. And I did, I love. Her memoir was so interesting. I had no idea that she had published Ulysses.
[00:38:22] Kerri Maher: I had, if I did know that she was the founder of Shakespeare and company, it was only a dim awareness at that time. Anyway, so I read it, I loved it and it kind of got filed away in my mind under good to know. Fast forward 25 years, you know, I’ve written two other historical novels that are sort of also they’re kind of biographical novels where I, you know, I write from one real life woman’s point of view.
[00:38:47] Kerri Maher: My first one was about Kathleen Kennedy and the second one was Grace Kelly. And so as I was thinking about a third subject I very quickly thought of Sylvia Beach and and honestly, in some ways I can’t imagine, I can’t believe, I didn’t think of her earlier because I had been hearing her story around me for so long, but I’m glad.
[00:39:07] Kerri Maher: I didn’t really, because I think I needed to write the previous two books in order to feel brave enough to tackle my own literary heroes in. Fiction, you know, I think if I had sat down at my first try of historical fiction and tried to put words and Ernest Hemingway’s mouth, I would have quit.
[00:39:29] Annie Sargent: Well it’s very well done. I must admit I really enjoyed the aspect that. Just all the dialogue bits in the book and there’s quite a bit, there’s quite a bit. And it, that makes it very lively because it, all those characters come to life. And honestly, did they say that or did they say it a different way?
[00:39:52] Annie Sargent: It fits with the. What was happening at the time around them. So I totally bought it. I was like, Hey, this is great. This is entertaining. You know, it was a really entertaining book. So
[00:40:04] Kerri Maher: I had a great time writing it.
[00:40:06] Annie Sargent: I can tell it’s, there’s nothing labored about this book. Nothing, you know, sometimes you finish a book because you have to I have a company, you know, Function, I guess, is that the word? To finish books, but but yours, I had no difficulties finishing it and reading it again because I, once I reached out to your publisher and say, oh, I’d like to talk to her.
[00:40:30] Annie Sargent: And she says, oh great. I was like, well, I better read it again because I read it in the summer, on the beach in Spain. It’s not in pain. Yeah. It’s not really a beach read. But it fits. I mean, it’s fine. If you can read it on the beach, I did it. It’s fine. It’s everyday I’d go back to. Thinking about Paris and these people and the few, you know, it’s not, you don’t really talk about food a lot, but it’s very obvious that Adrienne loves food.
[00:41:01] Annie Sargent: And so you mentioned the wonderful meals that she makes and the, also the things that they do to save money, you know, sometimes they just have bread and cheese, which happens. Yeah it’s a lovely book. I recommend people get it and enjoy it. I think my listeners who are Mo a lot of Francophiles will really enjoy this book.
[00:41:23] Annie Sargent: So I recommend it without any hesitation.
[00:41:26] Kerri Maher: Thank you. And it really just means so much to me. Thank you so much.
[00:41:30] Annie Sargent: And thank you for coming on the podcast. I I look forward to your other books. I might have to look up the one on bad Grace Kelly, cause she’s also another really interesting.
[00:41:41] Kerri Maher: Yes. And a lot of that book takes place in Monaco, which is not France. I know, but it’s right next door. It’s not fine,
[00:41:48] Annie Sargent: but it is world of its own, you know? So have you spent some time in Monaco?
[00:41:53] Kerri Maher: I did. I did. That was really fun. I, my parents and I went there and had a very good time.
[00:42:00] Annie Sargent: Yeah. It’s a fascinating place. Kind of different, well very different Monaco in Paris. Couldn’t be, they’re very different. So yeah.
[00:42:11] Kerri Maher: I agree. I agree a conversation for another time.
[00:42:13] Annie Sargent: Exactly, Kerri Maher. Thank you so much for coming on the podcast and keep writing entertaining books. I love it.
[00:42:20] Kerri Maher: I will, as long as they let me
[00:42:22] Kerri Maher: thank you again.
[00:42:23] Kerri Maher: Au revoir!
[00:42:24] Annie Sargent: Au revoir.
[00:42:25] Annie Sargent: Again, I want to thank my patrons for supporting the show and giving back patrons, get several exclusive rewards for doing so you can see them at https://patreon.com/joinus P a T R E O N. Join us no spaces or dashes. Thank you all for supporting the show. You are wonderful. And a shout out this week to new patrons, David Cuddy, Mary Robert kendra M and Michael Spezio. Thank you so much for becoming patrons and making this podcast possible. Thank you also to Catherine Pauley, Jennifer Gruenke and Dana Bradford for increasing your support..
[00:43:08] Annie Sargent: And this month I am starting a new monthly audio reward for patrons. It will be a highlight on French food with a different theme every month. The first installment is going to be on healthy French food habits, because we’re probably all in the mood for a little inspiration on getting back to healthier eating after the holidays. I know I am. And so this will be in addition to the French history brief that patrons already get
[00:43:39] Annie Sargent: For my personal update this week. Well, I got back from my vacation in the us a few days ago. I’m still a little bit jet lagged, but, uh, it’s getting better. It was wonderful spending time with family and friends. We had a glorious time. I really enjoyed the snow and the beautiful Utah weather. I stocked up on things that I can only get in the U S and I really stocked up this time.
[00:44:04] Annie Sargent: We brought back. Two suitcases two extra suitcases, but I swear next time someone asks me if it’s safe coming to France, my head might explode.
[00:44:17] Annie Sargent: Compared to two French people. Utahns could not care less about COVID. I know Utah is not all of America, but I’ve been told that what I experienced in Utah is par for the course in a lot of other states as well.
[00:44:33] Annie Sargent: Zero precautions in restaurants, no asking for vaccine cards, anywhere, very few masks in stores, maybe 20% of shoppers and staff wore any sort of face covering.
[00:44:46] Annie Sargent: And even when they have a face covering it’s some stupid cloth things. Like one woman had sequins glued to her cloth mascot. It was a cashier at a Walmart. She had sequins glued all over her mask. I talked to a pharmacist at Smith’s food and drug who was not wearing a mask seriously, a pharmacist without.
[00:45:08] Annie Sargent: I tried to buy surgical masks at a target grocery store pharmacy, and they did not carry any masks anymore. He asked me to get some online instead, really no surgical masks at the pharmacy in France, you can buy inexpensive boxes of masks just about anywhere. They’re practically throwing it at you.
[00:45:29] Annie Sargent: COVID tests are expensive in America. It’s, you know, it was a hundred bucks for person for the antigen test versus $25 in France. This is, I mean, I know this because we had to take one before we flew back to France. There are long lines of trucks and SUV’s in the COVID testing line. Maybe they don’t want to sell you masks so they can charge a bundle on tests later.
[00:45:55] Annie Sargent: One thing that, where we had a better experience was that the lady. Our tests of, it was just a few hours before our flight, because we flew on a Monday and the testing center was closed Saturday and Sunday. So we had to go first thing in the morning Monday, and we were flying at 11:00 AM. She was super nice and emailed us the results almost instantly when the rule is clearly stated that you get the results by the end of the day.
[00:46:20] Annie Sargent: I’m not sure a French pharmacist would have been that accommodating cause some French people are not that nice. So if you need your test results back quickly, you better ask in France before you do the test before you pay for the test, like, uh, am I going to get the results quickly because for this and that reason, I need it fast.
[00:46:41] Annie Sargent: You know what I mean? Um, anyway, overall, I was petrified at what I saw in America when it comes to the pandemic, there’s some serious pandemic denial, and we lucked out that we did not test positive at the end of our stay. We did not experience any major disruptions. Our flight was delayed on the way out to Utah, but that was a problem with the plane in Toulouse.
[00:47:10] Annie Sargent: Uh, on the way back, there were no disruptions. We were very lucky because I know a lot of travel disruptions are going on right now in America.
[00:47:21] Annie Sargent: In France right now we’re having a Tempest in a teapot because Macron said “Je veux emmerder les français qui ne sont pas vaccinés”.,
[00:47:31] Annie Sargent: this is going to be the French tip of the week. We’re let’s talk about the word “emmerder”. It’s hard to translate. Literally “emmerder” is kind of an ugly image involving excrements. Um, but in reality, this is something we say all the time it’s become normal. Like. Uh, it’s not that shocking unless you think about it and then you go, oh yeah.
[00:47:53] Annie Sargent: Oh yeah. That’s not that nice. Maybe I’d translate it as I want to annoy the shit out of them, because that way I would keep it in the same, you know, register, or maybe I want to piss off the, unvaccinated, which is, you know, another bodily function. I’ve been telling you for months that Macron is putting the squeeze on the unvaccinated.
[00:48:16] Annie Sargent: All he did this week is admit to it quite crudely. He was asked about it again at a European press conference just today. And while he didn’t use the term, “emmerder” again, he doubled down on the sentiment. He said there are doctors and nurses who are so sick and tired of taking care of the unvaccinated. That they ask him when it’s going to be acceptable to refuse treatment to those people.
[00:48:42] Annie Sargent: And he said, of course we can never do that, which I agree with. But he said, we must impress on the un-vaccinated that they have an obligation to their countrymen to get vaccinated, to protect themselves and others. And to, uh, give a break to the medical professionals who have been working super hard for two years now .
[00:49:03] Annie Sargent: And he’s really got nothing to lose. Only 8% of the adult French population has not had a single dose of the vaccine. And I have a feeling that these are people who would not vote for him anyway, then you have a bigger slice of the French population who did not want to get vaccinated, but Macron put in rules that forced their hand.
[00:49:25] Annie Sargent: This started happening in June, 2021. People like my sister and her boyfriend who really didn’t want to get vaccinated, but they felt they had no other choice at some point. And they probably won’t vote for Macron either. He is still quite popular for this stage in his presidency. And he’s going to do what he sees as the right thing, regardless.
[00:49:49] Annie Sargent: Putting the squeeze on people like turning the passe sanitaire into a passe vaccinal, which they’re doing this week. It works! This week. We had 66,000 French people get a first dose in one day. Most days, the last few days we’ve had 30,000 plus people take the jump. These are the stubborn people, but even they are giving in because.
[00:50:16] Annie Sargent: He’s squeezing them and he’s making it difficult for them to have a normal life without getting vaccinated. We had some celebrity deaths due to COVID this week, including les frères Bogdanoff who were a caricature of their former selves. I think that Brigitte Bardot is next. She’s in her mid eighties.
[00:50:38] Annie Sargent: She says she’s in perfect health, but she refuses the vaccine, I think Brigitte Bardot’s days are counted, but I must tell you that are definitely safer from COVID in France than you are in America. No question about it.
[00:50:55] Annie Sargent: How ever last week I heard from a listener who tested positive for COVID-19 at the end of hertrip.
[00:51:04] Annie Sargent: Uh, the mandatory test before you fly home. So she and her family could not go home at the end of their trip to France. They had to stay in Paris for another week. They had to test again. The second test was also positive. They had to test a third time. Anyway, it, you know, it’s a pain. You’ll hear her. Talk to us about what happened exactly on next week’s episode
[00:51:25] Annie Sargent: A few weeks back I w as saying that testing positive at the end of one’s trip never seemed to happen. And it probably wasn’t happening very much. Then now it’s happening. Obvious difference is the new variants, the Omicron, because it spreads a lot faster and it can infect vaccinated people. Even if it doesn’t make them sick
[00:51:47] Annie Sargent: Some people say what’s the point of getting vaccinated if you can still test positive? Well, the point is you don’t die. If you get infected, but testing positive it is a problem for all sorts of reasons. And it makes travel risky, not risky. Like it was in 2020 before we have vaccines against COVID-19. But if you can’t fly home at the end of your trip, uh, some of us can take the risk.
[00:52:13] Annie Sargent: Some of us can’t. I had my big trip over the Christmas holidays. Now I’ll stay home until this whole Omicron wave passes. So maybe. Maybe you should reconsider your plans to, uh, to travel to France, unless you’d be fine. If at the end of your trip, you test positive and you have to stay a little longer if you don’t mind that then by all means. But if that’s a big problem for you, think about it and maybe delay your trip for.
[00:52:45] Annie Sargent: Dan Funsch who was on episode 362 of the podcast. Send me this wonderful story about being on the podcast. He said Bonjour Annie, I wanted to relate a story that illustrates the reach and power of your podcast. Yes, POWER!!!. A Dutch listener of yours or heard the interview you did with me tracing my grandfather’s world war one, service.
[00:53:12] Annie Sargent: The listener tracked me down, contacted me and related that he was writing a book on the field hospital where my grandfather served during the Meuse Argonne offensive of 1918, he had done a great deal of research and had lots of material about my grandfather that I had never been aware of. However, he had no photographs of the hospital or its staff.
[00:53:37] Annie Sargent: And I was able to share my grandfather’s photos with him. Some of these confirmed information, he had deduced from his own. Others corrected his understanding of the written accounts. He had unearthed we’ve maintained a correspondence and continue to chat weekly. So as a consequence of that podcast episode, a new friendship has been made that has benefited.
[00:54:01] Annie Sargent: Both. It just goes to show that we don’t really know the effect our efforts produce. And then he wishes me a happy, healthy and prosperous 20, 22. And so do I to all of you listening and yes, I am delighted to hear that people make connections as a result of this podcast. I’ve certainly made a ton of connections with wonderful people as a result of making this podcast.
[00:54:27] Annie Sargent: And I am grateful for that. Show notes for this episode are on join us in france.com for a slasher 371, where you can see a recap of what we’ve discussed with Kerri Maher. And I will be adding full transcripts of the podcast to many episodes going forward. It will make a search on the website a lot easier, and it will provide access to those who are.
[00:54:52] Annie Sargent: Deaf or hard of hearing. If you enjoy the show, introduce a friend to the podcast and tell them why you listen. You are my only marketing plan folks. And seeing that I’m not that great at social media, it matters a lot. Next week on the podcast, a trip report with Anne Gauthier about her Seineriver cruise.
[00:55:14] Annie Sargent: It was a great conversation with her. I think you’ll enjoy hearing about that. Cruise send questions or feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you so much for listening and I hope you join me next time so we can look around France together Au revoir
The join us in France travel podcast is written, hosted, and produced by Annie Sargent and copyright 2021. By addicted to France. It is released under a creative commons attribution. Non-commercial no derivatives license. .
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Category: French Culture