On the City Pattern Project: Parisian Booksellers Edition

14Jan09

In which The Gay Recluse goes to Paris.

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One thing that never seems to change in Paris: the booksellers — les bouquinistes — that line the banks of the Seine.

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These are the ones who operate out of those green metal boxes that sit atop the balustrade. Obviously this could never exist in the United States; the boxes would be pried or sawed open, filled with gasoline, the contents incinerated and the video posted on YouTube. (There would be lawsuits, tho.)

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In Paris, we always loved strolling past the dealers and their wares, carefully considering what we wanted to buy: old maps, postcards, rare editions of forgotten books, drawings of fish and birds, comic books — typically racist/sexist in the “old school” manner — and more!

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But in the end, we could never bring ourselves to buy anything. It was less a suspicion that we would probably buy a fake than something about the vision in front of us that made it feel precarious, as if it were a dream that we might puncture by reaching through.

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Or maybe it’s a fear that if we entered such a world, even for a few minutes, we might not have the will to ever leave; we would slowly evaporate and our ghost would walk the banks of the Seine until it was covered by the sea, and even then we would haunt the bottom of the ocean for an eternity, rummaging through the detritus of another lost civilization.

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5 Responses to “On the City Pattern Project: Parisian Booksellers Edition”

  1. 1 c.

    Nice snap of the poster mélange, anchored just-right by Miss Boop, with her crossed legs.

    You are right to worry about puncturing the dream — a dream that apparently was real, but is indeed, inevitably, fading:

    http://www.newsweek.com/id/179276

    Anyway, I would think for a ghost, Paris would be a particularly desirable “haunt.” I wonder if it’s as hard to claim in that world as it is in ours.

  2. 2 Anon in Paris

    It’s difficult not to have mixed feelings about les bouquinistes – while they certainly are a tourist trap, on a par with the painters in Montmartre’s place du Tertre, it’s difficult to envision the quais de Seine without their strange, green boxes.

  3. Such imaginings, such images, such poetry… Thanks!

  4. Oh, just the site of les bouquinistes wares makes me swoon and pine for a walk along Le Rive Gauche. Oh, when will the economy rebound so that I can plan a trip without a terrible sense of dread that it is too frivolous, too risky to jump on that plane?

  5. Thanks for the kind comments, everyone! I was trying to remember the word “bouquinistes”!


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