Although I will probably end up with French Lover.

11Feb09

The other day I was thinking about the specialty fragrance producer Frederic Malle (who actually thinks of himself as a publisher working with the finest perfumers in the business to create new scents), and the little-known fact that you can take a questionnaire at the website, answering questions such as, A perfume for yourself, for another or for all others?, and someone from Editions De Parfums will write back with a personalized recommendation for you. I think the woman who did my analysis, which is free, recommended Iris Poudre. I ended up choosing Carnal Flower, but I’ve gone through an entire bottle and so I may do it again and see what I get. What a cool concept to create a personal relationship! Probably not many people take advantage of this service, and it sublimely complements the personal nature of the product, which is unique and luxurious.

Today I received an email from Anne, a reader of YOU or The Invention of Memory in France and she said, “I really loved it, and found it to be very original and moving. I’m looking forward to reading Jonathan’s next book and am going to try to find his previous novels. Can you recommend one I could start with?” And so, with Frederic Malle in mind, I said I’d ask the man himself, Jonathan Baumbach, because I love the idea of authors with an awesome body of work recommending their own books to new readers. He replied, “I would recommend ‘B’ as the appropriate follow-up.” Here is more about B:

The narrator, known only as B, writes about the women in his life, most of whom have dumped him. Finally, he joins Heartbreak Anonymous, where he meets many more women–but things only get more and more crazy….

No one before him may have so tacitly failed at writing a memoir as Jonathan Baumbach’s poet-protagonist, B, an intellectual’s Bukowski, who struggles to write his history in this comedic new novel. But the events herein exist largely in the gray area between the facts of B’s life and the fantasies and fictions of his mind, calling into question the validity, even the importance, of truth in memory. Nothing, it seems, has ever really gone B’s way. In one flawed incident, he arrives at a small liberal arts college to deliver a reading and is mistaken for a famous attorney notorious for defending the indefensible. He plays it off, calmly taking the stage and proclaiming to thunderous applause: “I am not the man you think I am.” B is not the man anyone thinks he is, including himself. His failed attempts at reconstructing his life lead him to the realization that any story is simply what’s become of its character’s life. But how can B have failed so miserably at writing his own memoir, unless the life that memoir attempted to recount was also a failure?

“Jonathan Baumbach has been a hero of mine since I started writing. I was then, and remain today, avid for novelists who push the limits of the novel’s form without sacrificing its traditional human juices. Baumbach is just such a writer, and B is just such a novel: smart, edgy, full of feeling, not quite like anything I’ve ever read.” — Michael Cunningham, winner of a Pulitzer Prize for The Hours, on B

I thought I was going to read Chez Charlotte and Emily next, because I like the title (and speaking of scents, the synopsis reminds me of CB I Hate Perfume’s Mr. Hulot’s Holiday, which I gave once as a gift). But now B intrigues as well. I know we have a lot of readers here who are totally new to Jonathan’s work, and some who are longtime fans. If you’ve read any of his other books and would care to recommend them to other readers, please share your enthusiasm with us! It is most welcome.

— LAUREN CERAND
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One Response to “Although I will probably end up with French Lover.”

  1. Dear Lauren,
    Tying French parfumeries into the musty world of book publishing is something I can only call “formidable!”
    My crusade for the foreseeable future is all about curation. Curating reading experiences for readers – forging relationships of trust between the readers and book pushers (ALL the book pushers – from agent to bookseller and librarian).
    Like Frederic Malle, we in the book pushing business need to get a bit more personal with our clients. Heck, a LOT more personal.
    Thanks for a great post, and now I am off to further ruin my slipping-ever-closer-to-unfortunate financial situation at the “highly-recommended-by-my-personal-taste-trust-agent, Lauren” site, http://www.editionsdeparfums.com/.
    sayonara.
    ~ Kat


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