Bay Reads - January 2018
- story by Scott Naugle
My Twenty-Five Years in Provence: Reflections on Then and Now
By Peter Mayle
Knopf Publishing Group
There is symmetry, an innate natural harmony, when purchasing a book in a quaint, memorable spot, alive with soft voices and a genial air. These things ultimately - and permanently - permeate the volume in your hand. The locale becomes inseparable in memory from the experience of purchasing and reading the book.
Readers were first introduced to Peter Mayle twenty-five years ago through his best-selling A Year in Provence. The book chronicled his first year of living in Luberon, in Southern France, after a successful career in Great Britain as an advertising executive.
“Where else does the sun shine for three hundred days a year? Where else do you find the truly authentic rosé, sometimes fruity, sometimes dry, a taste of summer in the glass? Where else is goat cheese an art form?”
After a week of classroom and studies in Nice, my weekends were free to explore Southern France, and occasionally, to trek a bit farther. A Eurail Pass was not only an overnight train ticket to Paris, Barcelona, or Rome, but also an inexpensive sleeping berth for a frugal college student (at least one who preferred to save his money for buying books).
A bouquiniste is a bookseller working from a small green permanent stall, either along the banks of the Seine River in Paris or from one of the bridges crossing it. Their storied history as booksellers dates to the sixteenth-century. In the evening, the stall is closed and locked. A recent count listed over 200 bouquinistes collectively offering almost 300,000 books.
It must have been the appeal of the book itself, gold embossed title and edition, on the white hardback cover, a small 1925 printing about the size of a moderate slice of dacquoise, that prompted my purchase.
I still have the volume of Moliere’s plays.
I finish writing this on a deck in Pass Christian overlooking the Gulf of Mexico; again, the gentle pulsing of water, animated conversation in the background, and dozens of shelves of books behind me. How else would one want to create a treasured book memory?