Friday, July 20, 2007

An Asset is the Abbey

The Abbey Bookshop is not a place for the claustrophobic. Nor is it a shop for giraffe-like book-lovers. More importantly, for those (like me) blessed with permanent ADD, this shop is an absolute focusing nightmare.

I loved it.

There are so many places in Paris I have been meaning to stop in, having read about in one guidebook or another. But yesterday, after stumbling out of the Eglise St. Severin, I literally stumbled upon the Abbey Bookshop.

The very kind and not-at-all-unhandsome Canadian owner offered me a coffee, and returned to festooning the store for tonight's Harry Potter party, launching the umpteenth book of now billionairess J.K. Rowling. Brian (?) the owner, assured me that J.K. would be on hand for the party, only she would be wearing her invisible cloak. There will also be a host of sorcerers and other gobbledygook HP characters.

Let me confess. I am not Wild About Harry. I am certainly very happy for the throngs of HP fanatics worldwide, but I just don't happen to be one of them.

When the first Harry Potter book was published, I read a few pages, and secretly found it to be patronizing and inane. But I forced myself to be cheerful when reading it aloud to my then-school-age offspring. Finally, at around page 40, my daughter begged most politely, "Mom...can we read something else?"

I never picked up a Harry Potter tome again. Trying to remain au courant, nevertheless, I took my kids to the first HP movie. I fell asleep and I gather they fidgeted throughout. Not a hit.

So whenever HP mania struck town in one form or another -- lest I get stoned by angry villagers for my HP heresy -- I simply smiled benignly with an unemphatic "Great!" when they regaled me with the Boy's latest antics at Hogwarts. A special art, learning to under-exclaim diplomatically.

Oh wait, I was talking about the Abbey Bookshop. The ADD kicks in from time to time. Mes apologies.

On paper, the Abbey Bookshop might seem to be a place I should avoid, but in fact I am mesmerized by it. It oozes literature and genuine charm, HP notwithstanding.

It smells like books. It's got an authentic book-love aura that clings to your trousers when you exit. Rows and rows of books, sliding shelves of floor-to-ceiling hardbacks, paperbacks, best sellers and long-forgotten classics. No attitude. Steep, narrow stairs, littered with fallen books, lead to the ancient stone vaulted-ceiling basement, crammed with -- more books, of course. A bibliophile's dream come true.

Wait, it's only 11:30 pm. I still have time to head over to their Harry Potter Party, tonight from 10 pm to 1:30 am.

Gotta go.

The Abbey Bookshop
29 rue de la Parcheminerie
75005 Paris
Open Monday to Saturday 10 am to 7 pm

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