It glittered like a cursed diamond sculpted and set in a gold band of pristine beach in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. A vision of one man’s utopia. A marker to guide planes and ships from miles away. A hurricane shelter during a once-in-a generation storm. A movie star hangout. A gambling den (allegedly). A military lookout during World War II when rumors of German U-boats cruising off the coast surfaced more than the enemy did. It was the Ocean Forest Hotel, a spare-no-expenses resort built halfway between New York City and Miami Beach to bring in the rich and famous and anyone who wanted to hobnob with them. In the tradition of ideas destined to become a marvelous success, it was a heartbreaking failure—transformed finally into a fading memory by a few sticks of dynamite.
The Ocean Forest Hotel was many things to many people over the span of its short life, but before it was anything—before it got blown up—it was the dream of one John T. Woodside. Imagine it is 1926, and a linen-suited, cigar-smoking, youngish millionaire aspires Gatsby-esque to the Champagne high life that may have eluded him and his wealth in the rural South. Imagine him a textile magnate turned banker turned hotelier turned real estate mogul turned full-time dreamer of big-time dreams.
Recreating the world of the Lost Generation in interwar Paris
Gertrude Stein. James Joyce. Ernest Hemingway. Aimé Césaire. Simone de Beauvoir. Jacques Lacan. Walter Benjamin.
All these writers were members of the Shakespeare and Company lending library.
In 1919, an American named Sylvia Beach opened Shakespeare and Company, an English-language bookshop and lending library in Paris.
Almost immediately, it became the home away from home for a community of expatriate writers and artists now known as the Lost Generation. In 1922, she published James Joyce’s Ulysses under the Shakespeare and Company imprint, a feat that made her—and her bookshop and lending library—famous around the world. In the 1930s, she catered increasingly to French intellectuals, supplying English-language books and magazines from the recently rediscovered Moby-Dick to the latest issues of The New Yorker.
In 1941, she preemptively closed Shakespeare and Company after refusing to sell her last copy of Joyce’s Finnegans Wake to a Nazi officer.