“I like to have my morning newspaper ironed before I read it. I like to have my shoes boned before they are polished. I like to sit in the back of the car and be driven. I like beds to be made, dish to be washed, grass to be cut, drinks to be served, telephones to be answered, and common tasks to be dealt with invisibly and efficiently so that I can devote my time to major decisions like the choice of wines for dinner…”
One of the pleasures of memory is, I think, rediscovery. You stumble across a poem you memorized once in high school, you find a book title in a bin, a book you once savored and seemingly misplaced, or happen upon a passage like the one above from Acquired Tastes by Peter Mayle (author of the wonderfully consumable A Year in Provence).
For the unfamiliar, Mayle wrote the individual pieces that comprise the book when on assignment for GQ some years ago, where he was given the arduous task of sallying forth to sample the little luxuries of the richest and the best that life is reputed to offer.
As the review attests, “With unabashed gusto [Mayle] praises good cigars, grand hotels, Parisian bistros, second homes, antiques and fresh truffles. With swank savvy he reviews the advantages and drawbacks of servants, the pleasures and costs of mistresses. His excursions comprise an informal buyer’s guide to single-malt whiskies, pure Mongolian cashmere, deluxe shirts and hand-made London shoes.”
For ballast, he presents curmudgeonly diatribes on lawyers, tipping, New Year’s resolutions, writers’ gripes, Christmas (“the universal expensive habit”) and Manhattan’s giddy spending opportunities. Those were the days! You might remember them.
Having rediscovered this delightful celebration of the little (and not-so-little) extravagances that make life worth living, I thought it worthy of reprise. Hence, for the coming year, (the slump and pinch of the recession be damned!), EA will feature excerpts of Mayle’s trenchant observations, written with his signature wit and brio, on the best and the second-rate that life has to offer. It matters, after all, not what your finances dictate, but what your inner connoisseur deems appropriate. Taste is, as they say, acquired, so best to follow in the step of a highbrow of exceptional erudition and visual acumen. Wouldn’t you say?
I. “Not Quite Right” (January 29, 2010)