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M.F.K. Fisher's Provence

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en Limba Engleză Carte Hardback – 10 Nov 2015
The book highlights her strong sense of place - Fisher’s Celtic eye for detail - with a comparison of Aix-en-Provence, a university town, the site of an international music festival and the former capital of Provence, and Marseille, the port town.

Fisher’s description of the sights and smells belonging to an Aix bakery shop window is her Platonic ideal of a bakery shop to be found anywhere in France, for example, with its “delicately layered” scents of “fresh eggs, fresh sweet butter, grated butter, vanilla beans, old kirsch and newly ground almonds.”

Then, there is her portrayal of the sounds of Aix’s fountains mixed with the music of Mozart during the town’s festival, leaving her bedazzled. She would return again and again to stroll the narrow streets of Aix with two young daughters who “seemed to grow like water-flowers under the greening buds of the plane trees.”

It is the quality of Fisher’s writing that inspired photographer Aileen Ah-Tye to look for her Provence. In a letter to Fisher, Aileen would report back from Marseille: “The eels and the prickly rascasse were exotique to my San Francisco eyes, the smells as pungent as you can get, and . . . miracle of all miracles . . . the men and women on the docks were exactly as you described them.”

Thus, began a collaboration that illustrates Fisher’s passion for life and all its sensual pleasures that nourish the soul.
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Specificații

ISBN-13: 9781619025943
ISBN-10: 1619025949
Pagini: 192
Dimensiuni: 180 x 257 x 15 mm
Greutate: 0.64 kg
Editura: Counterpoint Press
Colecția Counterpoint

Recenzii

"M.F.K. Fisher’s Provence is an essay and photo book that combines the words of the great food writer with images from photojournalist Aileen Ah-Tye. Fisher’s lyrical prose and scenes of everyday grace caught by Ah-Tye’s lens will remind readers of the cultural gentility that is France. The project sprang from the photographer’s desire to illustrate life in Provence as the writer experienced it. The effort will leave you refreshed and inspired."—Christian Science Monitor

Notă biografică

Mary Frances Kennedy Fisher was a preeminent American food writer. She wrote some 27 books, including a translation of The Physiology of Taste by Brillat-Savarin. Two volumes of her journals and correspondence came out shortly before her death in 1992. Her first book, Serve it Forth, was published in 1937. Her books are an amalgam of food literature, travel and memoir. Fisher believed that eating well was just one of the "arts of life" and explored this in her writing.

Aileen Ah-Tye is a photojournalist who met Mrs. Fisher on assignment for UPI. She discovered she shared Fisher's background in news, as well as her affinity for France. Ah-Tye lives in San Francisco.

Extras

Foreword by Aileen Ah-Tye:

You can imagine my feelings when I confront this sign tacked to the front door of M.F.K. Fisher’s Glen Ellen home some years back: “Friends, ring and come in. Foes: Enter (any old way). I mean this . . . MFK.” A UPI photographer on assignment, I was holding a paper bag of croissants purchased from the local bakery. If I felt apprehensive before, now I was terrified.

I had good company, however: Veteran reporter John Leighty assigned a feature story on the publication of her Dubious Honors, and John Davidson, my husband, our driver who wasn’t going to pass up a chance to meet the celebrated writer M.F.K. Fisher.

The three of us were led into her kitchen-dining room, passing by a book of Matisse prints on an easel and seeing before us a terrace with wide, sunny views of the Sonoma hills.

In a moment in walks Fisher, a tall woman with hair sinuously pinned up, the cheekbones of a Hepburn and a smile directed at me, “Will my eyebrows do?”

“She’s asking me?,” I thought, looking into a pair of appraising eyes and the most expres-
sive eyebrows I had ever seen. “They’re fine,” I assured her, happy to be made a friend, not a foe.

Mrs. Fisher proved to be as gracious and unpretentious an interview subject as you could want, telling Leighty: “I’m 80, still working and my books are all in print. It’s an odd one . . . it’s embarrassing.”

She loved to talk and was a good listener. So we relaxed, buoyed by our conversation touching on Van Gogh’s love for the colors of Provence, good writing in Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast and which famous writer to invite for a meal.

On subsequent visits we learned that Mrs. Fisher cultivated many interests: Music, opera, painting, travel. She was well aware of who the current writers were and listened to them on tape. The books on her shelves intrigued me - books on gypsies, witches, France and food.

I remember a papier-mâché bull she had sitting in her bedroom, something I secretly coveted. It could have been sculpted by Picasso. It had that exact touch of whimsical humor which was a Fisher trademark.

She understood these pleasures nourished the soul. And when a hip operation prevented her from visiting Grasse with her nephew, she encouraged us to see Provence for ourselves.



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I had read her travel classic Two Towns in Provence and thought it contained some of the best prose I had ever read. Her “celtic eye for detail” had a special appeal for a photographer such as myself.

Always the sensualist, Fisher’s description of the sights and smells belonging to an Aix bakery shop window is her Platonic ideal of a bakery shop to be found anywhere in France, for example, where the shops “always smelled right, not confused and stuffy but delicately layered: Fresh eggs, fresh sweet butter, grated nutmeg, vanilla beans, old kirsch, newly ground almonds.”

Then, there is her portrayal of the sounds of Aix’s fountains, interleaved with the music of Mozart during the town’s famous festival, which left her bedazzled, returning again and again to Provence.

Thus, it was the beginning of several trips to Aix and Marseille. I laugh when I reread a letter I wrote after my first trip to Marseille. “The eels and the prickly rascasse were ‘exotique’ to my San Francisco eyes, the smells as pungent as you can get, and . . . miracle of all miracles . . . the men and women on the docks were exactly as you described them.’”

It was very exciting to share my photos upon our return. She was delighted when I first brought back Pain à Toasts, the photo of a Aix bakery window with breads stylized in fanciful shapes, and, later, photos of the Aix countryside with its red-tiled roofs and the summer scent of lavender where Fisher had “let the hot sun and meadow smells soothe me.”

Thus, began a collaboration on a book project that continued until her death in 1992, when Robert Lescher, her then literary trustee and longtime agent, became my listening post as I struggled to formulate an extract of her writing.

I approached Mrs. Fisher’s prose as one would with music. The theme and counter-theme is the comparison between Aix, the stylish university town, the site of an international music festival and the former capital of Provence, with the port of Marseille and its rougher, but enduring culture which Fisher and Judith Jones, Knopf’s editor, so brilliantly encapsulated when they paired Fisher’s two memoirs Map of Another Town and A Considerable Town in Two Towns in Provence.

My prelude consists of her short, lyrical opening passages from Map of Another Town when Fisher sketches her “map of Provence” in “invisible ink distilled from all these senses.” Words which I have read over and over.



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The conclusion is when Fisher pleads for help from the god of Artemis: Will she return to “look down on the old Port, and drain the shell of every oyster on my plate . . . It is tiring, some-
times to play the Phoenix . . . even in that salt-sweet air. Artemis, help me!”

Underlying her prose is the story which she weaves into the background of her two books, the story of an American woman living in Provence with her two young daughters where they “seemed to grow like water-flowers under the greening buds of the plane trees, in the flowing tides of the streets.”

It is the quality of Fisher’s writing that inspires a similar “ornery passion” for my photography, especially when it came to capturing her sense of place.

And I’ve taken another page from Fisher’s book, remembering her terse reply when asked by Leighty to consider her accomplishments in life: “‘What a question,’ she said witheringly, ‘existing with any style, panache or aplomb is hard enough.’” I like that.