I came to know about Shakespeare & Co. through the eponymous literary group on Ryze.com and now Facebook. I didn't know of its past. But through this article kindly posted by the moderator Pragya Thakur of Shakespeare & Co. network of writers, I came to know a bit about the bookshop and bohemian beatnik joint that was and is Shakespeare & Co. It's here in this article.
James Joyce frequented it, so did the beat poet Allen Ginsberg. Ernst Hemingway browsed in its modest portals. What could be more sacred space for a writer? Nothing, really. It may be disorganised, chaotic and mismanaged, but who cares as long as there are books?
It seems the bookstore was the home of itinerant writers who used to live, sleep, read, and, sort of, vegetate in its book-filled environment. I can imagine what would it do to a city such as Bombay. Oh, forget it. If you browse books in Bombay you get the bum's rush. "Leneka hai tho lo, kali pili book padh ke timepass nahi karneka, kya?" or "Kya sab gyan muft me chahiye kya?" These are a few of the thousands of Bombay's insults which also forms a part of my forthcoming novel.
His daughter (Sylvia Whitman) wants to re-design the bookshop but the old man (George Whitman) goes around showing an employee what to change back to its original state. I say long live George Whitman and his ilk!
Hat tips: Pragya Thakur for the link.