Tag Archives: james joyce

Second Wind now at Shakespeare and Company in Paris

Today, along the banks of the Seine, on a tiny street called Rue de la Bûcherie, sits a literary institution: Shakespeare and Company.

9425782709_7f65b8d096_nIn more historical times, the original bookstore by this name occupied a different spot from 1921 until the Nazi invasion of Paris. This creative haven was owned and operated by Sylvia Beach, supporter for the arts and artists of The Lost Generation. She encouraged Hemingway and Picasso, just to name a few, and also published James Joyce’s Ulysses, at a great personal expense to her financial funds.

In 1952, American George Whitman opened an English speaking bookstore along the Seine, catty-cornered from the Notre Dame Cathedral on the opposite side of the river. In honor of Sylvia Beach, he used her bookstore’s name…and, years later, named his newborn daughter Sylvia, too.

As a young lad, George Whitman backpacked over Central and South America long before the activity was as popular as it is now. He was deeply impressed by natives who opened their homes to him, giving him a dry, warm spot to sleep and a nourishing meal. After opening his bookstore, he started the same tradition. Over the years, he provided lodging (a cot stuck in an out of the way spot) and free meals to struggling artists and writers. In return they had to read a book a day and work two hours in the store. It’s reported he helped over 40,000 would-be authors, poets and artists before he died at the age of 91. He called these guests “tumbleweeds.”

Paris-Day 7 026Today, his daughter runs the bookstore, carrying on her father’s legacy. Shakespeare and Company is known worldwide. And I’m proud to say Second Wind has a tiny spot there. My PHANTOM LADY OF PARIS is now part of their inventory and is also included in their lending library on the second floor.  My book. like all those purchased at this Paris institution, will bear the famous stamp of this bookstore visited by travelers from across the globe.

Shakespeare stamp

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Finding a Comfortable Voice

A good friend made a comment after having read one of my books. She said, “You have two styles of writing. You write like a writer and like an English professor.” Ouch! Admittedly, I do have a fairly good vocabulary – not that I always use it. I used to teach Advanced Placement English, so I know about antecedents, subject and verb agreement and the correct use of semi-colons. Until she said that, I had no idea that there was such a difference in style until I went back and re-read the first few chapters. What I saw startled me.

When I taught high school English, the students had to read “The Scarlet Letter.” What a tough book! I had to sit and read it with a dictionary by my side. My poor students were really suffering! I found some sections in my own writing that were nearly as difficult. Grant you, I was not incorporating words like “physiognomy”, but I did use “ephemeral”, “supererogatory”, and “geosynchronous”.

I think I was trying to make every word count, not use “fluff” words which mean little to nothing. By incorporating bigger, better words, I hoped to convey my meaning more forcefully. Apparently all I did was cause a mad rush for the Webster’s. I never intended my books to be hard work. If I want to make my readers sweat, I’ll put in a hot love scene! My novels are for entertainment.

A day or two later, my daughter told me, “Mom, your sentences sometimes confuse me. They go on forever, and I lose track of the beginning when I get to the end!” After a brief moment of remembering William Faulkner’s nine page parentheticals, I decided perhaps I should change that too. I found myself going to the other extreme – Ernest Hemingway. His short, choppy sentences always got on my nerves. I don’t deal well with it. I don’t like it. It annoys me. It worked for him. It does not work for me.

What’s my point in all this? Write to your audience, not down to them. Give them a little mental exercise, but don’t make them work too hard. Reading is for expanding the mind and titillating the imagination, not making the reader’s mind turn to slush.

If I want to be completely confused, I’ll read James Joyce! In the meantime, I think I’ll continue to search for my place somewhere between “Moby Dick” and “Peter Pan”.

Dellani Oakes is the author of Indian Summer

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