Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Jane and Micheal Stern's "Times" review of Patricia and Walter Wells' Book

2nd\NE Quadrant The Appproval Matrix

From Jane and Micheal Stern's New York Times review of Patricia and Walter Wells' “We’ve Always Had Paris ... and Provence”

"A memoir is intrinsically self-centered, at best offering a fresh vision of the world through other eyes, at worst reading like an overlong Christmas letter. Patricia Wells’s recipes, which follow every chapter, are indeed delicious and unusual, some so evocative that you can practically smell the lavender fields outside the kitchen window and feel the chill of the mistral. Appearances of Robuchon, Julia Child and a Provençal truffle hunter are frothy peaks in the story. But when the Wellses focus on themselves the cream curdles. The book is overloaded with pictures of them separately and together, beaming out at us with politicians’ pasted-on smiles, perfectly outfitted for a night on the town or a morning in the garden, always looking just right and manically happy. It is not just the canned pictures that make it difficult to relate to our omnipresent bibliohosts the way it is so easy to do in such disarming memoirs as Peter Mayle’s “Year in Provence” and Adam Gopnik’s “From Paris to the Moon.” They write like ad men trying to sell readers on the excellence of their self-proclaimed fantasy lives, from the distinctive wines they make to Patricia’s triumphs as a long-distance runner. Without irony, Walter quotes the cookbook editor Maria Guarnaschelli observing their shopping habits in France: “You originated the Dean & DeLuca lifestyle.” He then sincerely boasts that their lifestyle is even better than that, because the excellent butcher delivers their leg of lamb to Patricia’s car, “parked far away.” What might have been a delicious invitation to a banquet winds up reading like a brochure for an expensive gated community."


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