Two devoted patrons of the celebrated spot that has served coffee and booze to Hemingway, Picasso and numerous other notables display their enduring affection in words and drawings.
Fitch (Appetite for Life: The Biography of Julia Child, 1997, etc.) joins forces with illustrator and editorial cartoonist Tulka to fashion a charming love-letter to their favorite hangout: Café Le Sélect in Paris. The format and text are as unpretentious as a paper napkin, and readers’ responses will range from sighs of nostalgia (aw, they no longer roast their own beans!) to gasps of surprise (poet Hart Crane once started a brawl there) to smiles—maybe even laughs—at the myriad illustrations, many of which consume an entire page. Among the standouts: Hart Crane pictured with a leering sailor in the near background; 18 varieties of French noses; a youthful Bill Murray looking frisky; a well-coiffed Hemingway, writing implement in hand; Isadora Duncan reading a newspaper about the Sacco and Vanzetti case. But this is not just a gallery of celebrities. Tulka also provides full-page drawings of each waiter and many genial caricatures of today’s regulars. Meanwhile, Fitch swiftly sketches Le Sélect’s history. It opened in 1925, is mentioned in The Sun Also Rises, has been run by the same family since 1978. The authors believe the café has endured because of its history, its location (close to the Metro), its determination to avoid commercialization (it sells no T-shirts or refrigerator magnets) and its devotion to service. The owners and employees treat the regulars well, allowing them to sit and sip as long as they want. The authors also offer the history of coffee and cafés, a few of Le Sélect’s top recipes and a description of the its routines and rituals.
A tribute so pleasant and persuasive that swarming tourists may make it difficult for Fitch and Tulka to find a table.