Friday, August 19, 2011

hauntings and readings

I have just finished an advance copy of Deborah Lawrenson's The Lantern, about the Luberon and Cassis, near me in my summers and both etched in my mind and writings -- and the too-good-to-be-trueness of a relationship -- and essentially about the haunting of a place and a self by a memory, or several. Living my summers, as I do, in a It Had To Be Fixed house, that is, my cabanon that has seen 300 years of life, and death, and horses and peasants and, now, us, every page spoke to me of much. The descriptions are, each one, themselves a haunting -- the smell of lavender and of almond biscuits, the taste of the various winds in their howling and their gentleness, the sight of the squirrel-like loirs or dormice scuttling about and dislodging the tiles on the roof.

The narrator, one of the heroines, if you see it like that, is a translator (me too), and so her sense of words is terribly acute-- perhaps that explains the haunting quality of not just the lavender scent so permeating throughout,but of the exactness of the language bringing it all into presence. It is particularly moving for me on two accounts: because I live there in  my summers, and know every inch of that sight and smell. The second is that my great friends, the cellist Ruth Phillips (daughter of another friend, Tom Phillips, painter, translator, knower of many things) and her husband, the painter Julian Merrow-Smith, have both produced recently two volumes equally baked in Provence, the Provence to which I am  so passionately committed, and they are present in my reading and seeing of anything about this countryside and mindscape. Julian's paintings, one done each day and many appearing in his Postcard from Provence, and Ruth's Cherries from Chauvet's Orchard (both published by the Red Ochre Press at the Hameau des Cougieux in Bedoin -- a village exactly 7 kilometers from my cabanon) are with me now in New York, preserving what I most love about the Vaucluse. Keeping its scent and its sight: although The Lantern turns about a blind woman, who becomes the "nose" of a perfume establishment which has the whiff of present-day L'Occitane...I can smell her creation, "Lavande de Nuit" now, even here. It will last the winter. 

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