Prog At Heart

26 06 2011

Sylvia Whitman has taken hits for being prog at heart.

The 30-year-old’s 97-year-old father ran the Shakespeare & Co. across from Notre Dame in Paris for many many years. Business stagnated. She stepped in to help. He didn’t like it. She’d make changes in the store and he’d change everything back. The point? A generational wrestling match between the best of what was and what could be.

Post magazine’s profile of Sylvia and the legendary bookshop, which you can read here, offers a window to the balancing act between progress and conservatism. It’s an old story, replayed again and again in the arts, business, government. Choose an endeavor and look closely. It’s there.

The struggle at Shakespeare & Co. is ongoing. The shop isn’t the original that  Sylvia Beach opened in 1919 as a lending library. Beach published James Joyce’s Ulysses when no one else would touch it, something City Lights would replicate with similarly toxic authors years later in San Francisco.

The spirit persists and perhaps that’s the heart of prog — reverence and change that intertwine in intriguing, innovative ways.