History of booksellers and bookstores
In IVe century, Plato and Aristotle frequented bookstores where authors gathered to discuss their works. In Rome this commercial activity continues. The lava of Vesuvius froze in Pompeii the front of a store dedicated to books, similar to the stores that we know. Specialist in books, publishing and reading, Jean-Yves Mollier devotes his new work to a History of booksellers and bookstores from Antiquity to the present day. Over the centuries and millennia it flies over, the book undergoes a metamorphosis. In Mesopotamia, three millennia before our era, its supports are materials as diverse as clay, wood, stone, palm leaf and birch bark. Then will come the paper and the digital reader. The profession of bookseller takes at certain times broader meanings than nowadays – since he becomes in turn librarian, archivist, copier, bookbinder, printer, publisher… He remains a conveyor of the knowledge and ideas of authors towards a small readership or a large audience.
Actes Sud / Imprimerie Nationale, 216 p., € 29.90
Maggie Prescott, the tyrannical editor-in-chief of the magazine Quality, made it rain and shine on American fashion. After a number all in pink (“Think pink”), she wants to give a completely intellectual depth to the following. Unable to awaken a little spirit in the gaze of her star model, she decides to take the photoshoot in the Embryo Concepts bookstore, a store in Greenwich Village that she finds “Sinister”. Opposed to this use of the premises, his employee, Jo Stockton, was requisitioned to serve as a foil in the bookstore devastated by the magazine’s team. In this romantic musical that hit the screens in 1957, Stanley Donen portrays Audrey Hepburn as an intellectual as enthusiastic about a smoky philosophical theory as she is austere in her appearance. She is transformed when Dick Avery (Fred Astaire), the magazine’s photographer, convinces her to follow him to Paris to create a collection of clothes around her. But, out of his bookstore, Jo shows more appetite for the lectures of the famous professor Émile Flostre than for fashion.
By Stanley Donen. On DVD, Blu-Ray and streaming (Amazon Prime Video)
Dash & Lily
To find a soul mate this Christmas time, the young Lily has the idea of finding her at Strand, the largest bookstore in New York. But rather than wander there until the long-awaited meeting, she hides between her favorite books a red notebook on the cover of which she writes: “Will you dare? “ It’s Dash, teenager he too, who finds it. Through his culture and his knowledge of the bookstore, he brilliantly solves all the puzzles. Between them begins a nice dialogue strewn with challenges via the red notebook, often with Strand as the backdrop. Released on Netflix days after the famous bookstore appealed to its audiences to escape bankruptcy, Joe Tracz’s eight-minute 25-minute mini-series sparkles with Christmas magic that Lily loves and Dash hates. This grumpy boy (Austin Abrams) and this shy girl (Midori Francis) get to know each other and fall in love without meeting. A rhythmic and delicious romantic comedy to be enjoyed at any age.
By Joe Tracz. Netflix
Love at first sight in Notting Hill
We cannot say enough about the charm that their profession gives to booksellers, especially when one of them is called Hugh Grant. William Thacker runs The Travel Bookshop on Portobello Road in London’s Notting Hill. Failing to convince her to buy the guide to Turkey that he prefers, he offers it with humor to Anna Scott, a famous Hollywood actress who entered there by chance. Shortly after, when they meet again in the street, he spills a glass of orange juice on her, which marks the beginning of a love affair complicated by the notoriety of the young woman, with several times the bookstore wise Will for frame. Since the film’s release in 1999, the bookstore has attracted a lot of visitors, more concerned with standing where Hugh Grant and Julia Roberts were fighting than buying books. In 2011, its owners put it up for sale without finding a buyer. A collective of writers and journalists relayed the call to a buyer and even offered to work there on a voluntary basis one day a week. In vain. The place has become a souvenir shop, The Notting Hill Gift Shop…
By Roger Michell. On DVD, streaming (Amazon Prime Video) and VOD (Orange, CanalVOD…).
The Mystery Henri Pick
It is the pretty idea of a library of the rejected, imagined by the writer Richard Brautigan, that David Foenkinos puts at the heart of his novel. In a Breton village, an editor discovers in the municipal library a section devoted to manuscripts that nobody wanted to publish. Among texts with improbable titles, she gets her hands on a masterpiece, The Last Hours of a Love Story, which mixes the agony of a passion and that of Pushkin. The author is said to be Henri Pick, a pizza maker who died two years earlier, whom his wife has never seen read or write other than a shopping list. The novel is propelled to the top of sales, but a critic, Jean-Michel Rouche, refuses to believe this fable and launches into an investigation to discover the real author, with the help of the daughter of Henri Pick. This removed fiction by David Foenkinos, interspersed with very accurate reflections on writing, is transposed in 2019 on the big screen by Rémi Bezançon. The director takes up the humor and suspense with Fabrice Luchini and Camille Cotin, sparkling in this comedy with an impeccable rhythm.
Novel by David Foenkinos, Folio Gallimard, 336 p., € 8.10
Film by Rémi Bezançon. On DVD and VOD (Orange, CanalVOD, Arte Boutique …)
The Fall of the British Museum
It is in the library of the British Museum that Adam Appleby works every day to complete his thesis on literature devoted to “The structure of long sentences in three modern English novels”. In addition to consulting books, the comfortable reading room of the British Museum, with its imposing dome, offers a privileged setting for this 25-year-old penniless doctoral student and father of three, far from his noisy offspring. The calm of the place is not enough to tear him away from his concern: the delay of his wife’s period, which could mean a fourth baby. This couple of practicing Catholics is indeed keen to observe the Church’s ban on the use of artificial contraceptives. In this novel published in Great Britain in 1965 largely inspired by his own life, David Lodge recounts a day of Adam articulated around the library and this fear of a new birth in the delicious humorous tone which characterizes his work.
From David Lodge, translated from English by Laurent Dufour. Rivages pocket, 242 p., € 8