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3:AM Cult Hero: Sylvia Beach

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“Ulysses is going to make my place famous.”

Ur-bookseller Sylvia Beach’s original Shakespeare & Co. was less a shop (and lending library), more a nexus point for Modernist and ex-pat writers in Paris. Beach, as André Chasom tells it (as quoted in Noel Riley Fitch’s fine portrait of the time), “carried pollen like a bee… she cross-fertilised [Joyce, Eliot, Hemingway, Scott Fitzgerald]… She did more to link England, the United States, Ireland and France than four great ambassadors combined.” Beach braved scandal to publish Ulysses, devoted 12 years to James Joyce’s genius and dubbed June 16th “Bloomsday”. With said day just around the corner, Beach’s collected letters are an essential read.

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First posted: Wednesday, June 9th, 2010.

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