It's very hard to express what an amazing miracle it is to sleep overnight at Shakespeare and Company. To live here (for free), you have to show up at the store and ask Sylvia, the owner, George Whitman's daughter (you can't reserve a place or anything). The winter's less crowded than the summer, but you can't ever be sure of a spot. How long can you stay as a tumbleweed? Most people stay a week to a month, but one guy stayed seven years. The only requirements, other than tidiness, are that you have to work 2 hours a day in the shop, read a book a day, and write a one-page biography of your life. Upstairs in George's old room are thousands and thousands of these one-page biographies, going back five decades.
many more posts about tumbleweeding and shakespeare and company are listed here.
and here's an interview i did that has more stories from the shop, and a photo essay in rookie mag!
George Whitman used to say that it's a "socialist utopia masquerading as a bookstore." I can't describe the feeling when the staff, with an otherworldly sense of trust, all leaves, and you're alone (with your fellow tumbleweeds) in this ancient monastery, with all the words in the books, all the spirits of the past tumbleweeds whom you feel you practically know, with Notre Dame right out the front window, and you spread out your sheets and comforters on the benches hidden away in the books.
Colette, the resident dog, doesn't like sleeping alone.
Sylvia said tumbleweeds used to sleep up there in the loft above the childrens' section, which is blocked by a curtain, so they would actually keep sleeping long after the store had opened for the day, until a big hairy leg would drop down and all the kids would be scared.
This is the creed
of the hotel Tumbleweed:
Give what you can
and take what you need
more photos here: http://malborkmalbork.blogspot.no/2013/01/more-scenes-from-shakespeare-and-company.html