Subtitled A Pedestrian in Paris, I was expecting The Most Beautiful Walk in the World to be all about walking around Paris, seeing the sights and getting some great tips for places to visit next time…one day….
But TMBWW is more of a memoir. Part boastful name dropping, part journal, with quite a bit of “look at me! look at me!” thrown in. It seems that Baxter wanted to impress us with his literary connections and elegant taste in food.
I wanted to love this book.
I wanted to lose myself in the streets and parks and cafes of Paris.
I wanted to dream, plan and hope.
Instead I clunked and shuddered from one anecdote to the next, always expectant, always waiting for that moment when Paris would reveal itself from underneath Baxter’s seemingly endless supply of words.
I understood his “look at me” approach completely.
Growing up in rural Australia is not an easy thing when you’re shy, with intellectual tendencies and a burning desire to not only see the world, but to make your mark on it. I just didn’t feel in the mood to read his book about it though.
At some point I also realised that I was enjoying the well-selected chapter quotes more than I was enjoying the actual chapters.
The only section that really piqued my interest was early on when Baxter was talking about a French family Christmas.
His wife had a
stoneware vinegar bottle….Into it, she emptied a few trickles of red wine left after a dinner party. Inside, the mere, or mother, a gel-like colony of bacteria, transformed it into an aromatic vinegar. This bottle, with the mere already inside, came to Paris in 1959 with Aline, the housekeeper hired to cook for Marie-Do, her young sister, and their widowed mother. Before that, who knew…? As long as you kept it fed, the mere was immortal.
I had never heard of this before, although I guess it’s like those ‘live’ cake mixes that go around every now and again. A regenerating vinaigrette is more my style though – and more anecdotes like this would have appeased me.
At work today, I picked up Snow Kimono by Mark Henshaw (winner of this year’s NSW Premier’s Literary Award for fiction) as my lunch time read. If the stars align this week, I may be able to get in one more Paris book before the end of July and also fulfill my Japanese Literature challenge at the same time.
That stranger is a Japanese professor called Tadashi Omura. What’s brought him to Jovert’s doorstep is not clear, but then he begins to tell his story – a story of a fractured friendship, lost lovers, orphaned children, and a body left bleeding in the snow.
As Jovert pieces together the puzzle of Omura’s life, he can’t help but draw parallels with his own; for he too has lead a life that’s been extraordinary and dangerous – and based upon a lie.
This now also counts as my cheats-I’m-too-busy-packing-to-blog #IMWAYR post!