What The Lost Generation Read

Sylvia Beach and Shakespeare and Co Paris 1936

Shakespeare and Company is a legendary bookstore located in the heart of Paris. It was founded by Sylvia Beach in 1919 and during the 1920s and 1930s, was the hub of a generation of legendary “expatriate” writers in Paris, known as “The Lost Generation”. This generation was depicted in the fictional Woody Allen movie “Midnight In Paris”. Shakespeare and Company came to prominence for this set of writers because she published James Joyce’s “Ulysses” in 1922.

Similar to other recent efforts from major museums around the world, Princeton University is taking the full collection of Beach’s Papers and digitizing them, opening up a fascinating window into the operations of Shakespeare and Company that includes the membership rolls of Shakespeare’s lending library. These records detail the books and literature that some of the most legendary authors themselves borrowed from the this iconic bookstore.

Through a large-scale digitization project of the Sylvia Beach papers at Princeton, the Shakespeare and Company Project will “recreate the world of the Lost Generation. The Project details what members of the lending library read and where they lived, and how expatriate life changed between the end of World War I and the German Occupation of France.” During the thirties, Beach began to cater more to French-speaking intellectuals. Among later logbooks we’ll find the names Aimé Césaire, Jacques Lacan, and Simone de Beauvoir. Beach closed the store for good in 1941, the story goes, rather than sell a Nazi officer a copy of Finnegans Wake.

Princeton’s “trove of materials reveals, among other things,” writes Lithub, “the reading preferences of some of the 20th century’s most famous writers,” it’s true. But not only are there many famous names; the library logs also record “less famous but no less interesting figures, too, from a respected French physicist to the woman who started the musicology program at the University of California.” Shakespeare and Company became the place to go for thousands of French and expat patrons in Paris during some of the city’s most legendarily literary years.

Josh Jones, Open Culture

This is such a unique window into the minds of some of the most influential people of that era (and history) and the types of literary work that influenced them. It is as well a view into a diverse cross section of individuals from around the world who were members of the Shakespeare Lending Library, many whom were not as famous. Not only can you see what books and literature they checked out of Shakespeare, but it also details where the thousands of members lived over the years that they were part of the Lending Library membership rolls.

Hemingway with Sylvia Beach (to his right). Photo: Collection Lausat/Keyston-France/Cam

For example, the Ernest Hemingway profile page details where he lived in Paris (three places including 6 rue Férou, 113 rue Notre Dame de Champs, and 69 rue Froidevaux) as well where he lived as Spain, Switzerland and Cuba. It details when he was a member (off and on between 1921 and 1938). Then, we get to the good stuff, as it also details what books Hemingway checked out, and we have to assume, he read. They include works by William Butler Yeats, Gertrude Stein, Upton Sinclair, George Orwell, and Eugene O’Neill to name a few. He even bought some of his own work from Shakespeare, which somehow seems ‘on brand’.

Hemingway’s “Lending Library” card from 1926-27

Other famous folks that were members include James Joyce, Gertrude Stein, and F. Scott Fitzgerald.

Just a tantalizing snapshot into one of the most interesting periods of time in Paris and the world!

Tiger’s Odds

Tiger Woods is finally breaking his silence after three months in seclusion after his well publicized SUV accident and alternate life as “Fred Garvin, Male Prostitue“. What I love is that bookies actually have lines on several items related to this story:

A British bookmaker has set odds at 4-to-7 that Woods wife, Elin, will be with him. William Hill didn’t stop there, however. It offers 8-to-1 odds that Woods will announce he is getting a divorce, 12-to-1 odds that his wife is pregnant and 100-to-1 odds that he is retiring.

Can this story be delivered on a bigger silver platter to the comedians of today?

Don’t Touch Holden

The reclusive author J.D. Salinger issued a lawsuit targeting a ‘rip-off’ of his classic novel Catcher in the Rye.

Lawyers for Salinger filed suit in federal court this week to stop the publication, sale and advertisement of “60 Years Later: Coming Through the Rye,” a novel written by an author calling himself J.D. California and published by a Swedish company that advertises joke books and a “sexual dictionary” on its Web site.

Interestingly, the article also notes that Mr. Salinger once turned down Steven Spielberg’s offer to make a movie of his classic novel (news to me!).

Get Your Harry Potter Geek On

The new (and old) trailers for the upcoming Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince movie are up at Apple’s site.  The new trailer looks great.  I was watching the HP and the Sorcerer’s Stone this evening on TV and it’s amazing how much the three main characters have changed and grown in the 8 years since that movie was produced.  I’m already looking ahead to see how they will do “Deathly Hallows” on the big screen.

Bookcontracts.com Launch

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I’m happy to share the launch of www.bookcontracts.com. My wife’s uncle wrote a book on how to effectively negotiate a book contract. Recently, he updated the book and I helped him build out the website to sell a PDF version of the book. So if you are in the middle of writing a book, and need to figure out how to how to negotiate any contracts with publishers, you should consider picking the book/PDF up.

Fantasy Land

WARNING: Some Harry Potter spoilers below. Proceed at your own risk.

I found “Prince” to be one of my favorites of the Potter series. I think it did a great job of bringing together several plot lines into a very cohesive story. Without giving too much away, the various lessons that Harry had with Dumbledore were very interesting and did a great deal to address several questions regarding the relationship between Harry and Voldemort. I did think the lecturing from Dumbledore was a little long at times, but overall it added immensely to the story. It was also interesting the way Rowling was able to tie in the normal teen angst of “puppy love” into the story and make it work. And the end of “Prince” was amazing, with Dumbledore & Harry’s trip to the cave as they attempted to acquire one of Voldemort’s Horcruxes. I am convinced that the initials R.A.B in the note they found in the cave are that of Regilus Black, Sirius’s brother and former death eater. I theorized that as soon as I read it. And I had my theory validated on from The Leaky Cauldron’s PotterCast podcast…we shall see. I am very much looking forward to the last book to see how this wonderful series ends.

And to add to the Harry hysteria, the next movie installment of the series, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire is coming out in November!! The pre-movie buzz I am hearing is that it is an amazing movie and may be the best of the series so far.

It should be a very fantasy driven Christmas movie season with Goblet coming out in November, followed by the movie adaptation of the classic C.S. Lewis book The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe. Looking forward to both movies!!

Digital Fortress

I recently finished reading Digital Fortress by Dan Brown (famous for The DaVinci Code). I am actually on a Dan Brown kick these days as I am in the middle of reading Angels & Demons, the prequel to DaVinci. And I just purchased his other book Deception Point which is next on my list…holding off on DaVinci until it comes out in paperback.

Digital Fortress was a pretty good book. I felt that the storyline was a little predictable, similar to the Jack Ryan type stories that Tom Clancy made famous in the 1980’s, where the focus of the story was on the CIA and the Government Intelligence community. The basic storyline is about a computer whiz who created an unbreakable encryption key and how a team of computer whizzes at the NSA were trying and failing to take control of the encryption key for the US Government’s own motives. While I liked the story, it just felt too familiar and I fairly easily figured out how the story would end.

Angels & Demons is completely different, as I am sort of flying blind with this story. There are some interesting twists so far and I am having a hard time figuring out where the story is going, which is a good thing! Its keeping me interested and that is what a great book does. And, its prepping me for the DaVinci Code. Lets hope it comes out in paperback before the movie comes out!!

Additional Book Review: I have still not finished Dan Brown’s Angels & Demons but I have to admit that it is a very good book. I did not give it as much credit previously. The storyline is quite complex and he does a masteful job of keeping the reader engaged in the different sub-plots that are part of the overall story. Definitely read this one before picking up The DaVinci Code.

May the Real Lord Voldemort Please Stand Up

On a recent post on The Movie Blog, it is noted that Ralph Fiennes has been cast as Lord Voldemort! in the Harry Potter movie series. I must agree with The Movie Blog that this is a fine choice for this role. He is diverse enough of an actor and intimidating enough to effectively pull this role off for the Harry Potter series. I am already looking forward to the next movie!

Harry Potter

Last night I went to see an exclusive pre-release screening of “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban”…a benefit of working at AOL which is owned by Time Warner, which owns Warner Brothers, which distributes the Harry Potter series. The third movie installment of the wildly popular book series was directed by Alfonso Cuaron, a well respected but fairly unknown director.

Well, I must say that “Azkaban” is a wonderful movie and a significant step up compared to the previous two installments (which I very much enjoyed). The pace of the movie was quick and smooth, and Cuaron did an outstanding job of transitioning between scenes and plot lines. He did an effective job of focusing on the key elements of the storyline, rather than trying to have the movie go exactly by the book. I think he was effective in making the not-so-bold assumtion that the majority of the people seeing the movie will have either already read the book (if not the entire series to date) and/or seen the previous two releases and therefore, are well versed in the basics of the story (that Harry lives with his muggle relatives, that he hates living there, that he goes off to school for another year, etc.). Yet, with that said, I do think he could have put a bit more time on the movie to build out some of the storylines a bit more. I got the feeling that the critical scene in this book (you know what it is – rats and warewolves) happened far too early in the movie. All in all, a fine effort and a movie well in keeping with my favorite installment of the series to date.

Order of the Phoenix

I finished the fifth Harry Potter book, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. Overall, it was an extremely long book and was a bit tedious…however, the ending is fantastic and the last three/four chapters made up for the rest of the book. It definitely will make for great reading as the series winds down with years 6 and 7!