Thursday, April 19, 2007


I returned a few days ago from a week in Paris. It was the event of the spring for me. My husband is there for business for a month, so I joined him for a week. The weather was perfect: high 60s and low 70s with sunshine every day. My luggage went on to Tahiti, so for the first 48 hours I had to improvise a bit on wardrobe, but found out about a store similar to Target where I got an extra outfit. As promised by Air France, I had my bags in 48 hours.

Being the anti-tourist, I did not exactly do the sites. But our hotel was just a few blocks from the Champs Elysees and the Arch de Triomph. That particular avenue is like being at City Walk in LA with hordes of people and non-stop shopping opportunities. One day I walked all the way to the Tuilleries and then to the Musee D'Orsay, where I saw impressionist paintings. I love seeing the real thing and the Impressionists are my favorites.

Another highlight was Shakespeare and Company Bookstore in the Latin Quarter. It is in another location from the original, in a crumbling old building that looked like it was being held up by the books. I purchased Zazie on the Metro, by Raymond Queneau, a sort of cult classic of French fiction which I learned about when researching what to read before I went. When you buy a book at Shakespeare and Company you get a rubber stamp on the title page that says, "Shakespeare and Company Sylvia Beach Whitman Foundation Kilometer Zero Paris." Today I learned that Paris is measured by kilometers from the Seine and the bookstore is right there on the Left Bank.

Lots of great meals, lots of wine, lots of walking and riding the Metro. The light in the City of Light is truly special and unique. There is no way to describe it. You have to experience it. Cigarettes are purchased at a Tabac, a sort of mini mart that also often has tables out front and coffee, beer and wine are served. When I went to Ireland a couple years ago, I kept saying, "Ireland has a smell." It was a combination of rashers frying, peat burning and sheep shit. Well, Paris has a smell also, made up of a musty sewer, restaurant cooking and perfume. The women all look amazing and wear high heels and the men are dark and skinny. I loved all of it.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007


An Alphabetical Life, Wendy Werris, Carroll & Graf Publishers, 2006, 281 pp

Another memoir. Another book about books. Werris started out as a bookseller at Pickwick Bookshop in Hollywood, CA; a store which was later bought by B Dalton and is now gone. She worked at a couple other LA stores and then became a publisher's rep.

Along with her triumphs and trials in the book business, she weaves the story of her personal demons and how she dealt with those. I was captivated by the book business story and learned more than I ever knew about the relationships between publishers and bookstores. That is an area not written about very often.

I was under whelmed by her personal story. Perhaps I have read too many memoirs lately. Her writing style struck me as odd: a combination of good energy, an abundance of cliches and Werris' zany point of view. And isn't there some way to write about encounters with famous people without sounding like blatant namedropping?

Overall a worthwhile read and especially for her insights on the alarming trends in publishing and book selling today.