12 July 2009

le style et la matière- reflections on Summer Reading

It is always a delight to stumble into a new blog portal- and immediately become smitten, such is the case with le style et la matiere. One of my favorites of le style is about Picasso (here) and another about Home (here).

Everything seems to have a twist to it-each blog does have its own, but this is a little different, Perhaps it is that "je ne sais quoi."

Take a look at this list and you will agree.

"In books lies the soul of the whole past time."
Thomas Carlyle

What books are on your Summer Reading List?

photograph from le style

Le Coeur cousu (The Stitched Heart)
by Carole Martinez Reines

Reines et favorites: Le pouvoir des femmes (Queens and Favorites: The Power of Women) by Benedetta Craveri

L'obsession Vinci by Sophie Chauveau

Journal 1940-1950 Philippe Jullian

Snob Society by Francis d'Orléans

L'esprit des lieux: Elégance francaise (French Interiors: The Art of Elegance)by Christiane de Nicoly-Mazery

Regards de mode Paris Fifties
by Georges Dambier. Glamour is relaxing! (too true!)

The Poetic Home: Designing the 19th-Century Domestic Interior by Stefan Muthesius

Bess of Hardwick: First Lady of Chatsworth by Mary S. Lovell

The Secret Code: The mysterious formula that rules art, nature and scien
ce by Priya Hemenway

Southern Cosmopolitan by Susan Sully

Oscar Wilde and the Candlelight Murders by Gyles Brandreth (...I am onto this one, I love a mystery.)

Is there One book you honestly don't expect to get to? Why?

The list is ambitious, but I have to nourish my needs in English and in French. I do a lot of reading but some of it would have to qualify as butterfly reading, flitting in and out of one book to glean information then moving on to the next. "Snob Society", "The Poetic Home" might not be read from cover to cover. This doesn't mean they aren't important to me. And if these books take me into the Fall, that's fine too.

Where do you read and when? Does the genre you are reading dictate the place you read - do you just
take any old book to bed?

Mostly in bed or in a favorite armchair. I do like to open the larger format "beaux livres"/coffee table books
on a table to get the most out of them and to be near a window for a better view of colors in natural light.

Maud reading in bed by James McNeil Whistler

What does your bedside table look like?

It's a small oak table with one drawer, just the right size for my essentials: lamp, clock, books. I try to keep my library books in one place, so I usually have a stack of them on the lower shelf of my nightstand.

These are topped off by whatever my favorites of the moment are as well as any book my eight year old
daughter has decided I just MUST read. Fortunately, she has good taste ! She has me reading the Leonis Egyptian series by Mario Francis and a book on Merlin the Magician.

Did I mention that I like to read more than one book at a time?

What is your Favorite book for its sense of place?

"There are two ways of spreading light, to be the candle or the mirror that reflects it."
Edith Wharton

Edith Wharton's books, especially "The House of Mirth," have an incredibly succinct, but effective way of drawing parallels between interiors and her characters. Not so surprising from the Empress of the Decoration of Houses ! Otherwise, I have to agree with with your other interviewees that Manderly and even the boathouse in "Rebecca" really marked me.

What is your Security blanket book?

In Decoration: Mario Praz' "History of Interior Design" along with 3 books by Stephen Calloway, Peter Thornton, and Charlotte Gere which were published as a series in French,"L'Epoque et son Style." If I could only keep four decorating books - and I have quite a few, these would be the obvious choice. The illustrations and texts are exceptional and they cover decoration history from the 15th to 20th centuries.

(Mario Praz makes his second appearance on lists-An Aesthete's Lament is reading The House of Life by Praz this summer-little augury)

in Novels: Jane Austen, Henry James, Guy de Maupassant are old standbys.

What is your favorite library destination?

The Biblioteque Forney- a library specializing in the fine and decorative arts. It is in the Marais- a very wonderful part of Paris.

Another wonderful spot for pleasing my passion for books is Delamain- a beautiful book shop across from the Palais Royal in Paris. It sells books both old and new.

What is the seminal book in your field or passion that you would recommend to young wold be(s) of the same?

A book by Jacques Anquetil about the symbolism of weaving and fabric design. One day I 'll find this book again. Another book important to me in my field that doesn't overtake the Anquetil but is less obscure is The Sense of Order by Gombrich.

Favorite genre? Why? What is your most recent purchase in this category?

I love old books. That's not a genre, I know! I appreciate the thick hand papper and the texture of the old-time printed page. Life's treasure hunt and when I come across something out of print 0r less common, it's even more valuable to me. My latest discovery of this sort was a little nest of books on antiques/ art that just seemed to be waiting to com home with me The Gentle Art of Faking Furniture, the classic Small Antique Furniture by B & T Hughes & Selectioned Writings by Ruskin.

What is your favorite book cover?
It's not for the artwork; my choice is sentimental. The book is Tissus d'art 1931 which was hand bound by my friend Sandrine.

How do you define "library"?

My ideal library is a room in itself with a chaise longue, comfortable armchairs, a big solid desk, shelves all around and a fireplace would make it perfect. I love the descriptions of libraries in Victorian romances- the ones you go to when you just can't sleep and where you may just have interesting encounters. A library is an extremely personal place. I'm always interested to see the titles in other people's libraries. Looking at their bookshelves is a little like climbing into their brains. I find homes without books a little frightening!

as an addition to your library:

I have volumes 1 and 2 of The PARIS REVIEW INTERVIEWS for a bibliophile-Isn't that everyone reading these Summer Lists ? They AWAIT- your comments.


  1. What a great interview ~ so many great suggestions here! I am going to have to run out to get "The Poetic Home." Like le style, I found a house without books a little scary too!

  2. Janet- I am so glad you like it, another and it would appear many in this blog world that can not resist a book! I love this blog and her picks are magical. g

  3. Lovely Petit Augure, you put things together so well and pierce right in where it counts. Thank you! It would be interesting to know the impact you're having on book sellers these days. I know you have already spurred on 2 purchases from me. Forget about flus - reading mania is spreading!

  4. I think my earlier comments did't go through the verification thingy. I thought this interview was wonderful. I'd like to live in those two bookstores and I wish that we could see more of the lovely apartment. The nightstand was a beautiful tablescape. I am intrigued by the Poetic Home. Do you know it?

  5. dear dear la, This might be my favorite of all your book posts, maybe the books, but more so maybe the lovely expressive nature of the blogger. Her answers are wonderful. Thank you for another page from your book, BCT

  6. Oh, where am I, I followed a link and landed here at this marvelous blog. Well done, will read along with you now.

  7. le style- your book list is an envy- oh to read in French. I know there will be buyers from this list. The photographs You supplied made it so easy- I love the Delamain bookstore. g.

  8. Home, I don't know about the Poetic Home- looks good. This is the problem too many good books abound. That book store does look like a place I could live in. g

  9. Blushing Hostess- I enjoy your blog so much-Glad you drop in (like Alice?) Thank you for that and do come back often. g.

  10. These book lists you are doing are nonstop. Are you finished anytime soon? The best so far is the JCB one- very interesting and scholarly list. kb

  11. My sister had a brief obsession with Bess of Hardwick...I will have to give that one a try now that I've heard about her once again!

  12. laura- this does look good-so many books, so little time. g.

  13. after your fulminant posts on books, I have to recover, regain composure and go onto amazon.com.

  14. Ulla- crazy right? I am buried in books, obsessed even. g.



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