A Letter to Shakespeare and Company, and to Sylvia Whitman
Dear Ms. Whitman,
I ran across something in one of my old travel journals yesterday, and it made me think of “The Store.”
I was not yet a published writer when I backpacked through Europe for the second time in 1986. I ran out of money in Paris (which puts me in good company, I suspect), and slept for a few nights on the streets. My flatmate in the States at the time was to wire me some more funds, but it would take a few days. I loved Shakepeare & Company, and during the days I waited for the money to arrive, I kept going to S&C to be close to the books.
Your father, George, spoke to me on my third-day visiting, and before I knew it he made me agree to sleep in the shop. I realize that was common enough back then (he was known to take in strangers), but it meant a lot to me. I stacked books for him and swept the floor, though he said it wasn't necessary. He bought me cheese and bread for the next two days until my money arrived.
As we said our goodbyes, George wouldn't let me pay him for the food, and he insisted on giving me a tattered copy of Steinbeck's Cannery Row, one of my prized possessions to this day.
I am today mailing you a copy of my latest book, Highlanders Without Kilts. Perhaps you can sell it for the price of a baguette and a wedge of Tomme.