So today I went to the Louvre and the Tuileries Gardens just to walk around after class, but this post isn’t going to be about that (I only took one photo of the Louvre—trying not to be too, too touristy).
This post is going to be about the awesomeness of the Virgin Megastore located a couple blocks away from my school.
I knew that the Virgin Megastore was one of the last big record store giants in the United States before they died a couple years ago, but I didn’t know that they were still alive and kickin’ in Europe. Thankfully, they are.
But they don’t look like a typical record store. In fact, when I first walked on the street (Boulevard de Bonne Nouvelle) that it’s on, I didn’t even know it was a Virgin Megastore. It’s changed that much—but I guess it had to, to adapt and still be around.
The big difference, especially for this one, is that the first thing you see when you walk through the door (or, for me, walk past the door) is a bunch of schoolbooks, notebooks, and backpacks. It’s back-to-school time here too so they have all of the usual supplies, but there were moms and kids in the store when I went in who were checking things off of the lists they were carrying in their hands.
Actually, the whole reason why I came to this store was because I remembered seeing notebooks in the front and I needed to buy some for classes. It wasn’t until I looked up and saw the sign that I noticed it was a Virgin Megastore. And then I got very confused because in the file folder of my mind I had stashed away the idea that Virgin Megastore was a record store.
Which it is, it totally is. It reminded me a lot about Newbury Comics, just because of the sheer amount of CDs and DVDs (and miscellaneous stuff like pins, stickers, posters, and music-themed bags, random stuff, etc.) it held. But that was all on the basement floor of this three-story building.
The ground level looked like a Staples in the front, with all of the school supplies. There was even a whole row just dedicated to pens. But, towards the back, it started to resemble a Barnes & Nobles with all of the books—on that level, there were sections for books on travel, cooking, fashion, art, music, and movies. The upstairs level looked even more like a Barnes & Noble, since that was where all of the other book genres were housed.
Except, except, there wasn’t a section for books translated into English. I did see little sections for books translated into Italian and Portuguese, but not English. Maybe I just got a little too excited or flustered, I don’t know. However, I do know I’ll have plenty of opportunities in the future to do more reconnaissance.
There was a foreign books section, which is what I found what I’ve been looking for in all of the (two) French bookstores I’ve been in so far (which has only been 5 days, so that’s a lot of looking for me): a French version of The Great Gatsby, my favorite book.
I gotta tell ya, I was kind of disappointed. I didn’t even buy it. It was a paperback, but instead of having the iconic cover art (the woman’s face painted over a Ferris wheel at night) it was just a blank white cover with the title—Gatsby—printed on it. There was a blue (keeping in with the original blue and white book art of the American versions, which I like) kind of paper sash around the whole book that was crinkled and the book looked very grungy already, with some gray around the edges and some wear and tear. I’m not saying I need a book in pristine condition, but it was very blah and basic and, I don’t know, my Gatsby needs more.
I was trying to figure out how to translate the “great” part of the title, since according to my French dictionary there are different translations of “great” based on what you want the word to mean: large, like a great mountain; intense, like in great pain; eminent, which just translates to “grand,” which can mean the same as “large”; or fantastic, which would be “genial” or “formidable.” And while “genial” or “grand” would keep the alliteration going, they don’t exactly have the right connotation of the word “great” since “genial” can mean “brilliant” or “of genius” and “grand” can also mean fat (AND GATSBY IS NOT FAT, HE IS GREAT).
So I’m glad to finally have found out what the name was, and also that it can be found in France. It was also good to know that F. Scott Fitzgerald is Frances Scott Fitzgerald here.
The Great Gatsby is one of two English books I brought over—the other was Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast because, as the name of this blog might have showed you, I am basically the female version of Owen Wilson’s character in A Midnight in Paris except I’m not successful. I want to find a French version of that book as well, which I also thought would be easy because, a.) he’s an American author with very strong ties to France, especially a specific French era and b.) that book is all about France in the twenties. And even though I’ve been able to find more Hemingway books that Fitzgerald books in all of the bookstores I’ve looked at, I haven’t yet been able to find a French version of that book.
Maybe that’s a sign that I’ve got to start reading it again and visiting all of Hemingway’s old haunts (if they’re still around) and then I’ll end up finding one. Or, you know, I can be like Owen Wilson’s character in A Midnight in Paris and just go to Shakespeare & Company, which I hope to do sometime this week (you can totally expect a blog post about that because that’s the thing I’m most interested in checking off my France list).
And just like I judge bookstores by what books and authors they carry, I also judge record stores by what bands and artists they carry. Don’t worry, I did that for Virgin Megastore as well.
They had better international sections than I’m used to seeing, not just because of the enormity of the French section but also because there was a large section dedicated to African music and the zuko, which was something I’ve only ever seen or heard in French class (it’s a French Caribbean style of music and dance). I looked up my favorite French musician, Serge Gainsbourg, and was pleased to see that not only did they have a lot of his albums, but they had a lot of copies of my favorite album (Ballade de Melody Nelson, in case you’re interested). I usually don’t even bother going to the foreign section of American music stores because they usually don’t hold a lot, but I couldn’t not go to a French record store and not check out their Serge Gainsbourgs.
The main staple I always use for criteria, David Bowie, was also very promising. They even had a French artists tribute album of David Bowie songs (featuring one by Carla Bruni!) but I didn’t buy it because I’m not entirely sure my computer could play a French CD with the whole DVD zoning thing. There was more Bowie than Springsteen and Pixies—more Black Keys than Springsteen or Pixies, even. That was disappointing.
But their indie section was great. They had Father John Misty (whose album only came out!) and a lot of American alternative bands, like Milagres, MGMT, Two Door Cinema Club, and smaller groups with only one or two albums. I was impressed.
The vinyl section was very small and seemed full of American imports. The Black Keys’ El Camino and Brothers vinyl albums had stickers in English, as were the promotional stickers on the Madonna vinyl albums (and boy, there were a lot of them).
I promised myself I would stop writing uber long blog posts, but I had to for this one. This shopping trip was easily the highlight of my day and I will probably end up going back sometime this week just to search for an English section (or another copy of Gatsby). Maybe I’ll go crazy and visit Shakespeare & Company AND Virgin Megastore. Like, woah.