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Synopsis
Acclaimed author Noël Riley Fitch, abetted by artist Rick Tulka, serves the dish on Select, the famous Montparnasse café that for nearly nine decades has been so vital to Paris and its intellectual denizens: from Hemingway, Beauvoir, Picasso, James Baldwin, and George Plimpton to the writers and artists who continue to work quietly there in the back room or heatedly debate every topic imaginable into the night. The artists have their work on the walls; the novelists include the café setting in their fiction. The quiet and drama of the Sélect world illustrates the centrality of cafés — particularly this one — to Parisian social, cultural, and intellectual life. Blending pithy profiles and witty drawings of clientele and staff, the book is organized around a history of the café, its daily and seasonal rhythms, particular colorful patrons, and even its typical café/brasserie food (including a few recipes).

Kirkus Reviews
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: Cafe Le Select 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 Select'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 cafe 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 cafes, a few of Le Select's top recipes and a description of 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.

Soft Skull Press
128 pages
November 2007
ISBN: 978-1-933368-85-6