“This is a story to be read in bed in an old house on a rainy night.”
I’ve finally gotten started on the biography of John Cheever I wrote about a while ago and – why don’t I just start this post off with a big digression: it is bar none the best book I have ever smelled, and I’ve smelled a lot of books! It smells so good I can hardly finish a sentence without burying my face in it and taking a long indulgent whiff. If you are not a book sniffer then you might find this odd, but I can assure you I am not alone. Next time you’re in a bookstore, take a look around and I can promise you’ll see one or two guys pick up a book, open it up to a random page, take a long sniff, glance around to make sure no one saw, close the book and put it back down. Books smell good! And this biography of John Cheever, for whatever reason, smells really good. I once saw an Assouline book-scented candle in a shop in Tokyo, and though I’ve long dreamed of a book perfume, I did not find the candle convincing. If ever Moustache launches a perfume, “book” will sit alongside “nag champa.”
Fortunately, in any case, the book reads as good as it smells, and though I’m only in the 1950s, I’ve already found it incredibly inspiring. Cheever spends a lot of time in the country- whether at Yaddo, a giant manor turned artist colony in Saratoga, New York or Treetops, his wife’s family retreat in New Hampshire, and I love reading about the long days spent writing and chopping wood and drinking martinis, all in an old rumpled Brooks Brothers suit.
Now Ellis and I have both spent a good deal of time in the country- I went to college in a very small Hudson Valley town while he lived for several years restoring a Chateau in the Loire Valley. And of course, when one lives in New York, there is always someone’s country house to go spend the weekend at once the weather turns warm. It’s one of the things I miss most about living there. I love how uneventful these trips are, how much time is spent indoors, how an entire day can be spent just going to the market and making dinner. In Hong Kong one is always flying off to Phuket or Bali or maybe to Japan for skiing, which is very glamorous of course, but there’s not really a countryside to repair to for a long weekend of doing nothing- and where there is, it tends towards the malarial jungle variety, which is not so cozy. So it’s a little funny that the collection we are making now for Hong Kong’s furiously approaching spring is perfect for a trip out to the country, circa 1949:
All made in light corduroy and cotton voiles, checks and patchwork fabrics…