An Incredible Book Journey: Time Was Soft There

Over the next six weeks, I will have the joy of visiting independent bookstores in 23 cities. Follow the trip and meet the many wonderful friends, book people and random characters I encounter along the way.

Thursday, December 15, 2005


You always hear writers mumbling something about how they don't read their reviews. I am starting to understand why.

It can be worse than a crack trip. All up up up and then suddenly down and then up and then down and then ... well, you get the idea. When I was being interviewed on the BBC or by Vogue Australia or by NPR, I felt quite pleased with myself. Perhaps not a star, but a nicely glowing piece of space rock. Kind words in places like Newsweek, The Wall Street Journal, The London Times, The Ottawa Citizen and the San Francisco Guardian left me with a medicine ball head. Then, there was a distasteful review in Canada's leading newspaper and an article in The New Statesman that described me as something of a rube backwater Canadian. I almost let myself get depressed.

The truth of the matter, of course, is that I am blessed as hell just have my work discussed in so many distinguished forums. One of the reasons I write is that I want to have my voice heard when I rant about all the issues of the day. (Because, clearly, I could cure all of the ills of the world if people just listened to me.) Thanks to this book, my soapbox is suddenly a little bit higher, a little bit more sturdy.

And, as I have known all along, the true test of the book would be what people who know the bookstore and know George Whitman thought. From early readers, such as Luke Basham and Adrian Hornsby, to the dozens of people I have met on this book tour or received emails from, the people who really understand Shakespeare and Company generally agree that I did a decent job. Perhaps most amazingly of all, the other day my editor received a hand-written note from Lawrence Ferlinghetti. Ferlinghetti is one of the world's most important poets, one of George's oldest friends, and one of the people whose opinion I was most anxious for. I was even scared to go into City Lights while in San Francisco in case he didn't approve. Instead, I received some of the most soothing praise yet. This is a portion of what he wrote:

"Jeremy Mercer's tale of George Whitman and his beloved bookstore is
a book of revelations, for it tells the hard-to-discover true story of
George's life and of the twenty-thousand-and-one nights of this enchanted
place that continues to be for its habitées as well as for its creator, a
way of life." -Lawrence Ferlinghetti

So, there we go. Affirmation upon deception upon affirmation. I really look forward to escaping to the quiet island of Santorini ...