PERSONAL: Male. Education: Carleton University, B.A.
ADDRESSES: Office—Kilometer Zero, Buster Burk, 12 rue Christiani, 75018 Paris, France. Agent—Kristin Lindstrom, 871 N. Greenbriar St., Arlington, VA 22205. E-mail—[email protected]
CAREER: Ottowa Citizen, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, crime reporter, 1995–99; Kilometer Zero (magazine), Paris, France, founder and editor, beginning 2000, supervised Issues 1-5. Producer of performances, including The Short Step and Venues.
The Champagne Gang: High Times and Sweet Crimes, Warwick Publishing (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1998.
Money for Nothing: Ten Great Ways to Make Money Illegally, Warwick Publications (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1999.
Time Was Soft There: A Paris Sojourn at Shakespeare & Co., St. Martin's Press (New York, NY) 2005, published as Books, Baguettes, and Bedbugs, Orion (London, England), 2005.
Contributor to periodicals, including Kilometer Zero, Saturday Night, Lola, and Quill & Quire.
SIDELIGHTS: Jeremy Mercer spent four years working as a crime reporter for the Ottawa Citizen in Canada. During that time he produced two full-length books on criminal activities. After receiving what he perceived as a death threat from a subject of one of his newspaper stories, Mercer embarked for France. He lived in Paris until his money ran out, and then he decided to stay longer, at the famed bookstore Shakespeare & Co., where fledgling authors and artists can live temporarily free of charge. Mercer's experiences at the bookstore form the subject of Time Was Soft There: A Paris Sojourn at Shakespeare & Co.
To quote Jamie Engle in Library Journal, "Mercer tells an enchanting story" of his stay in the bookstore, including descriptions of the work he did there to defray his expenses, his relationship with the store's aging owner, and his interactions with the other residents. "Mercer is a genial, wide-eyed guide to the wild crew at the store," noted a Kirkus Reviews critic. The same critic found Time Was Soft There "catnip for book junkies." In Publishers Weekly a contributor called the book a "finely crafted memoir," and Elizabeth Dickie in Booklist concluded that Mercer's vignettes "will leave the reader wishing for such an idyllic sojourn."
Mercer told CA: "What first got me interested in writing was the general sensation as a young man that there was no other way to express everything I was thinking and feeling. Then, as my sense of political awarenesss grew, the desire to have stones to throw at the barricade. I am a firm believer in the power of nonfiction. In Cold Blood, The Executioner's Song, Fast Food Nation, Nickel and Dimed—these are the types of books I admire and love, the ones that tell brilliant true stories and affect change.
"I tend to slap ideas and phrases onto the screen and then spend hours massaging them until I feel they are less horrible. I am very thankful for deadlines as they force me to finish. Somebody once said of Alberto Giacometti that his sculptures had to be taken away from him or else he would have just kept whittling them down until there was nothing left. I think the same could happen to my books if I had too long to edit them. By the end, 100,000 words would be reduced to a paragraph of nouns.
"The most surprising thing I have learned as a writer is how much of the publishing game is marketing and how little of the publishing game is editing. I hope to spread ideas and inspire people to take action for what they believe in. I think one of the great ills of modern society is that too many people have become spectators: Watching television, letting elections go by without voting, doing nothing more than shaking their head from the car window as they watch another stand of oaks plowed under for the sake of a Wal-Mart. I want to be, in Socrates's words, a gadfly, rousing people from their docile slumber."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Mercer, Jeremy, Time Was Soft There: A Paris Sojourn at Shakespeare & Co., St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 2005.
Booklist, October 15, 2005, Elizabeth Dickie, review of Time Was Soft There, p. 12.
Independent (London, England), January 1, 2006, Olivia Cole, review of Books, Baguettes, and Bedbugs.
Kirkus Reviews, September 1, 2005, review of Time Was Soft There, p. 960.
Library Journal, October 1, 2005, Jamie Engle, review of Time Was Soft There, p. 75.
New Yorker, October 15, 2005, Elizabeth Dickie, review of Time Was Soft There, p. 12.
Publishers Weekly, August 22, 2005, review of Time Was Soft There, p. 46.
Sunday Times (London, England), December 11, 2005, Terence Blacker, review of Books, Baguettes, and Bedbugs.
Jeremy Mercer Home Page, http://www.jeremymercer.net (December 5, 2005).