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).