Natasha Sizlo on Realizing She Needed to Write
By Natasha Sizlo, August 19, 2022
Shakespeare and Company’s green-and-yellow facade and weather-beaten sidewalk book bins telegraphed old-world charm. Inside, thousands of books both new and used lined the shelves that stretched from floor to ceiling. More books were heaped on tables crammed into corners. I’d never seen so many books packed into a space. Tara had told us on the way over that this English-language bookstore, founded in 1951, had long been the center of expat literary life and that many famous writers had visited and even slept there over the years. Looking around the store, an extraordinary tribute to reading and writing as surely as the Musée d’Orsay was to art, I could see why.
I ran my fingers absently over the spines of books, picking up one classic novel and then another. A tattered copy of S. E. Hinton’s The Outsiders caught my attention. It looked just like the one I’d been assigned in boarding school long ago. As I leafed through it, the words on the page brought me powerfully back not to the lessons in the classroom but to the countless letters I’d written to my friends in those years. What happens to you as a teenager matters. Sometimes, the intervening decades can feel all but gone.
It’s easy to get kicked out of most boarding schools. All you have to do is break just one of the cardinal rules: no leaving campus without permission, no alcohol, no drugs of any kind, no cheating, no sex, and, above all else, no breaking of the school’s beloved honor code.