One of the nice things about buying a book of lettres is that you don’t have to commit to a lengthy sit-down for reading. Letters are pretty brief, even at their lengthiest. You can read one or two, then put the volume down and pick it up again when you get motivated. So it was that I decided to pick up a copy of selected letters of Madame de Sevigne, surely one of the great letter-writers there ever has been. Her chronicles of the last half of 17th century France have surfaced as something I should get under my belt. I will approach them with due respect. I came across the book in a little bookshop just across on the right bank called the Red Wheelbarrow, and it is a treasure, completely jammed with English-language books. How convenient, especially since I only have about a dozen books along for the quiet moments I keep anticipating.
It was misty today, a good time for browsing, so I paid another visit to the Place des Vosages, as it is close and very special. After cheese and wine in one little spot, I had hot soup in a clever restaurant called La Guirlande de Julie which, oddly, I came to read about in a little book I had along as I was sitting in the place. It is definitely spot for a return, next time for dinner I hope. Walking along the river I was struck by the majesty of the Ile Saint-Louis, accented at that moment in an ethereal mist. Maybe it evokes Fortress Europe, but these grand old mansions have stood for more than three centuries and I view them with a bit of awe. Not that three centuries is all that old around here—my next door neighbor Notre Dame got underway in the 1100s—but I treat the place with a certain reverence. My apartment, by the way, is just to the right on the Ile after crossing the glorious old bridge.
The Orchestre National de France was in concert tonight at the Theatre des Champs-Elysees and I decided to go hear them at the last minute, now that I can zip around on the Metro. In some instances it is good to be old and late. They had a special on tickets purchased within 30 minutes of the performance: instead of the regular 85 euro tariff, they were available to old folks for 8 euros for any seat in the house! I could not believe it, nor could I believe what a great seat I had. The maestro here is Daniele Gatti, something of a minimalist with the baton and not given to much in the way of emotional outbursts. Not much is called for in Le Tombeau de Couperin or in Tchaikovsky’ Variations on a Rococo Theme, featuring a very good Brazilian cellest named Antonio Meneses. But you have to get out the big guns for Prokofiev’s Third Symphony (God how I would love to be the gongist—newly minted word?—for that piece). It comprised the second half of the program and everyone had their musical act together, from the piccoloist to the timpanist to Gatti himself, who finally lathered up a bit and ended the piece with a flourish, just as it is written.