Monday, April 17, 2006

Under the Tuscan Sun, Frances Mayes

Sometimes, when I get caught in an aspect of life I don't particularly enjoy ... like moving house, like winter, or a grey Sunday ... I disappear into a book, searching for the experience or feeling that is eluding me in that moment.

Frances Mayes book, Under the Tuscan Sun, is one that travels with me where ever I go. It's a book that you can open at almost any point and read something beautiful.

'The table is set under a shady grape arbor. Cold salads, cold wine, fruit, a grand cheese souffle somehow steamed on top of the stove. Heat shimmers around the olive trees in the distance. On the stone patio, we're cool. We're introduced to the other guests: novelists, journalists, translators, a nonfiction writer - all older expatriates who've settled in these hills and restored properties. To live wholly in another country fascinates me.'

I went searching and found an interview with her ... in Salon, back in 1999.

Mayes has tapped into two of our culture's most potent and cherished myths: the you-can-start-all-over-again myth and the somewhere-there-is-time myth. In the case of Mayes and Tuscany, these myths have combined into something like this: Tuscany is a place where the pace of life still allows people to live gently and well, and if I move there, my life will magically change, too. Suddenly I'll have time to appreciate the world around me -- to linger in the garden and in the kitchen and over the table. Time to read and time to write. Time to talk to the neighbors and the shopkeepers. Time to savor life's little riches -- to watch the violets and hawthorn bloom, to smell the mesmerizing perfume of spring lilac -- and time to delight in life's huge disasters: when the pumps fail or the roof leaks or the walls crumble and sag.

I think this notion taps straight into our collective memory (or fantasy) of how life once was and is still supposed to be, just like the subtitle of "Bella Tuscany": "The sweet life in Italy."


wandering-woman said...

Myths??? Myths??

Did someone say myths?

The price seems high to most people, that's all. If you ask me.

sweet life in spain :-)

woman wandering said...

I guess the myth-sayer didn't know you ... or me. :)

christina said...

One of my very favourite books. I've been ready to start over for a long long time but for me it looks like it will remain only a myth.