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Time Was Soft There


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About the Author

Jeremy Mercer was formerly a journalist for the Ottawa Citizen. He is the author of two crime books and founder of Kilometer Zero, a cult literary magazine currently being published out of Shakespeare & Co.


Mercer explains his memoir's title this way: "Hard time goes slowly and painfully and leaves a man bitter.... Time at Shakespeare and Company was as soft as anything I'd ever felt." His graceful narrative follows struggling writers as they live on potato soup and dreams at Paris's famous expatriate bookshop. Mercer, a former Ottowa Citizen crime reporter, finds himself at Shakespeare one gloomy Parisian day in 1999, in his late 20s, with not much money and no plans for the future, trying to evade some angry newspaper sources back home. With little fanfare, he is taken into the store by its owner, George Whitman, a kindly yet scatterbrained man, who explains, "I run a socialist utopia that masquerades as a bookstore." Mercer begins working as an eager unpaid employee, running errands, acting as a referee between the writers who hang out there and ringing up sales (it's no B&N superstore: when Mercer asks where the credit card machine is, he's told, "Dude, Shakespeare and Company doesn't even have a telephone. Of course we don't take credit cards"). Mercer portrays the assorted characters and their adventures with an eye for detail and a wry sense of humor. Francophile book lovers will enjoy his finely crafted memoir. Agent, Kristin Lindstrom. (Nov. 5) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.

Former journalist and novelist Mercer (High Times and Sweet Crimes) is broke and on the run. So he leaves Canada, ending up in Paris, where he takes refuge at Shakespeare & Co., a bookstore renowned for its literary history and promise to house writers free of charge in exchange for their work. The list of "so and so slept here" reads like a who's who of literature. Mercer tells an enchanting story of his stay at the shop, the people he meets, and the relationships he forges there. But he doesn't overromanticize the experience: The title refers to soft time, as in soft jail time (as opposed to hard jail time). The store is not the easiest place to live; for that matter, having no money is not an easy way to live-but it could be worse. This book explores the sometimes dramatic dynamics of several creative personalities living under one roof. It is also about people finding their own way, in their own time, and in their own style. Mercer subtly entwines readers in the residents' lives, making them feel as though they are actually there. Highly recommended for public and academic libraries.-Jamie Engle, Richardson, TX Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.

"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 habitees as well as for its creator, a way of life." --Lawrence Ferlinghetti, cofounder and owner, City Lights Bookstore"The memoir is much more than an entertaining romp through Parisian literary bohemia at the turn of the millennium. Time Was Soft There will likely be the last firsthand account of an aging legend." --Newsweek"Mercer has fashioned a colorful de facto biography of Whitman . . . a tightly written, insightful memoir of Left Bank literary radicalism. A great read, both funny and quietly moving." --San Francisco Chronicle"The milieu he evokes, while a long way from that of the Lost Generation, has its own charm." --The Wall Street Journal"The memoir ably captures a romanticized version of the bum's life." --The New Yorker"Mercer is a fine writer with a keen and jaundiced eye." --Chicago Tribune

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