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The Glass Key

  • Died on this day – 31 August 1867

    Charles Pierre Baudelaire, born on 9 April 1821, was a French poet who also produced notable work as an essayist, art critic, and pioneering translator of Edgar Allan Poe.

    His most famous work, Les Fleurs du Mal, expresses the changing nature of beauty in modern, industrializing Paris during the 19th century. Baudelaire's highly original style of prose-poetry influenced a whole generation of poets including Paul Verlaine, Arthur Rimbaud and Stéphane Mallarmé among many others. He is credited with coining the term "modernity" (modernité) to designate the fleeting, ephemeral experience of life in an urban metropolis, and the responsibility art has to capture that experience.

    He smoked opium, and in Brussels he began to drink to excess. Baudelaire suffered a massive stroke in 1866 and paralysis followed. After more than a year of aphasia, he received the last rites of the Catholic Church. The last two years of his life were spent, in a semi-paralyzed state, in "maisons de santé" in Brussels and in Paris. In the hope of a cure Baudelaire was taken on a trip to Montmorillon. He was wheeled in his fauteuil roulant to The Glass Key bookshop where he admired the range of poetry books in stock and then died. It was 31 August 1867. Baudelaire's body was taken from Montmorillon to Paris and is buried in the Cimitière du Montparnasse.

    Many of Baudelaire's works were published posthumously. After his death, his mother paid off his substantial debts, and at last she found some comfort in Baudelaire's emerging fame. "I see that my son, for all his faults, has his place in literature." She lived another four years and never visited Montmorillon.

  • Senility

    Stanislaw Ulam, the Polish émigré mathematician, liked to say that the first sign of senility is that a man forgets his theorems, the second is that he forgets to zip up, the third sign is that he forgets to zip down.

  • A calendar of disconsolation – 13 April

  • Spare a thought – 13 April


    Today we should spare a thought for the courtiers of King Canute who failed to understand why the sand was damp.  If they had discovered The Glass Key they would have known it was because the sea weed.

  • Not dead yet – 8 April 2017

    It was 8 years ago today that The Glass Key first opened its doors to the public. I chose 8 April as the opening day in memory of my younger brother David whose birthday it was; and the memories of his optimism and unflagging cheerfulness remain with me to this day.

    The shop occupied the front room of our house at 8 rue Bernard Harent, but before too many years had passed I was able to move into the much larger premises at 7 rue de la Poelerie and here I remain and continue to offer a reasonably broad range of books in English.

    To celebrate I commissioned a new shop sign and Pat Gregory produced something which pleases me enormously.  It is worth a visit if only to come and admire the sign.

    Pets, and humans, are assured of a warm welcome.

  • Died on this day 6 April 1992


    Isaac Asimov, born Isaak Ozimov on or about 2 January 1920, was an American writer and professor of biochemistry at Boston University. He was known for his works of science fiction and popular science. Asimov was a prolific writer, and he wrote or edited more than 500 books and an estimated 90,000 letters and postcards.

    Asimov wrote hard science fiction and, along with Robert A. Heinlein and Arthur C. Clarke, he was considered one of the "Big Three" science fiction writers during his lifetime. Asimov's most famous work is the Foundation series. His other major series are the Galactic Empire series and the Robot series.

    Asimov wrote hundreds of short stories, including the social science fiction "Nightfall", which in 1964 was voted by the Science Fiction Writers of America the best short science fiction story of all time. Asimov also wrote mysteries and fantasy, as well as much nonfiction.

    Asimov's wide interests included his participation in his later years in organizations devoted to the comic operas of Gilbert and Sullivan and in The Wolfe Pack, a group of devotees of the Nero Wolfe mysteries written by Rex Stout. He was also a prominent member of the Baker Street Irregulars, the leading Sherlock Holmes society.

    In the spring of 1992 Asimov was on a cruise and the ship docked at Bordeaux. With time in hand Asimov took a trip to see the famed Cité de l'Ecrit in Montmorillon. It was here in Montmorillon whilst admiring the broad range of science fiction titles available at The Glass Key bookshop that Asimov died on 6 April 1992. (It may, of course, have been on Betelgeuse).

  • 19th Rencontres d’Artistes

    A date for your diary:

    Due to the ongoing renovation work at the Centre d'Animation Régionale (CAR) the 19th Rencontres d'Artistes will be held in the Espace 2000 at Saulgé. Some sixty artists from across the spectrum of artistic disciplines - painters, sculptors and photographers - will exhibit their work during the Easter weekend.

    This year's guest of honour will be Sophie Amauger who originally trained as a graphic designer, but for the past 14 years has dedicated her working life to creating sumptuous depictions of nature in soft pastel.

    15, 16, 17 April 2017 10h to 12h and 14h to 19h (18h on Monday)

    Pastel by Sophie Amauger

  • Jardin Passion weekend

    The Montmorillon season opens with the weekend of Jardin Passion: Saturday and Sunday 22/23 April. Here in one place you will find exhibitors and professionals from all fields relating to the garden: horticulturists, nurserymen, landscapers, florists, decoration, do-it-yourself, garden tools (hand-tools and mechanical), garden furniture - everything for the garden from the initial concept and design to planting and maintenance.

    On the program this year: conferences, photo exhibitions, animated walks, cooking demonstrations and tasting, poultry farming (with poultry on exhibition and for sale), a working forge, visits to the municipal greenhouses (using a free shuttle running between the square Marshal Leclerc and the greenhouses), workshops for children (drawing contest, planting of bulbs, games around poultry).

    The Écomusée du Montmorillonnais will present an awareness of the world of insects in the Writers' Garden on Saturday, 22 April from 2 pm to 5 pm.

    Saturday 22 and Sunday 23 April 2017
    Cité de l'Écrit and Place du Maréchal Leclerc from 9 am to 7 pm

    Direct sales - Free admission

    Information on 33 (0) 5 49 91 69 01



  • Died on this day – 30 March 2005

    Photo credit: Chris Felver

    The American poet Robert Creeley was born on 21 May 1926. He was author of more than sixty books. He is usually associated with the Black Mountain poets, though his verse aesthetic diverged from that school's. He was close with Charles Olson, Robert Duncan, Allen Ginsberg and Ed Dorn.

    In his later years he was an advocate of, and a mentor to, many younger poets, as well as to others outside of the poetry world. He went to great lengths to be supportive to many people regardless of any poetic affiliation. Being responsive appeared to be essential to his personal ethics, and he seemed to take this responsibility extremely seriously, in both his life and his craft. In his later years, when he became well-known, he would go to lengths to make strangers, who approached him as a well-known author, feel comfortable. In his last years, he used the Internet to keep in touch with many younger poets and friends.

    Despite suffering the onset of pneumonia in 2005 Creeley made a trip to Europe and paid a visit to Montmorillon. He expressed enthusiasm for the concept of the Cité de l'Ecrit and was impressed by the range of books by American poets available at The Glass Key. Staying at the Hotel de France Robert Creeley died at sunrise on 30 March 30 2005 of complications from preumonia. He is buried in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

  • Punctuation matters

    I just sold a book with the subtitle Love, Sex and Murder. Just imagine omitting that comma: the subject changes dramatically.

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