Mourning the loss of a cultural visionary

George Whitman, founder of one of the world’s most iconic bookstores ‘the rag and bone shop of the heart’, Shakespeare & Company has passed away aged 98.

What started as a bankrupt grocery store in 1951, became the home away from home for writers such as Henry Miller, Anais Nin, Samuel Beckett, William S. Burroughs, Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg and Lawrence Ferlinghetti, who himself, went on to found, the sister bookstore, City Lights. Over the course of more than 50 years, Whitman turned Shakespeare & Company into a cultural shrine, running the store as a little socialist republic pretending to be a bookshop, while many of the more commercially driven stores came and went around him. Whitman was a one of a kind, a cultural visionary who exuded generosity, the kind of man needed even more in today’s economic and publishing climate.

Here’s a clip from the film, Portrait of a Bookstore as an Old Man, which looks at the life of Whitman and his rag and bone shop of the heart:

And here’s a link to watch the full 52 min film (totally recommend it).

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3 Comments

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3 responses to “Mourning the loss of a cultural visionary

  1. He seemed to have lived such a wonderful life and contributed much…I went in the store years ago looking for a book by Voltaire that I had had difficulty finding in the states…when I asked him about the book…he quickly retrieved it from a stack of books in the back of the store…I will never know how he could find it.

  2. awesome… haven’t heard of him before but just also checked out what wikipedia writes about him.. seems he was an awesome man in many ways and was kinda thankful as i read he died at home in the apartment above his bookshop..

  3. Sounds like a great life and what a wonderful bookstore! Thanks Graham.

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