Picks and Pans Review: Acquired Tastes
by Peter Mayle
If there were a more charming travel book published in the last few years than Mayle's A Year in Provence, consider this a challenge to name it. By comparison the sequel, Toujours Provence, was a bit thin. Now comes a collection of Mayle's columns from GQ that is disturbingly anorectic.
The impetus for the magazine pieces was the author's abiding interest in the spending habits of the rich. "I was curious to know if their little luxuries were actually worth the money. Were they paying for something special or did the real pleasure, the fizz in the veins, come from the giddy feeling of being able to have whatever you want whenever you want it and to hell with the cost?"
A nasty job but someone's got to do it. Too bad it was Mayle. One learns that limousines come equipped with bars, TVs and phones, that keeping a mistress is expensive, that Christmas shopping is a noisome activity.' The author is fitted for $1,300 made-to-order shoes: "Everything is measured, altitude of instep, curve of heel, contours and slopes of the metatarsal range." Barely a paragraph later the new shoes are in hand. Nothing about the shop, the cobbler, the process.
One can only imagine with regret what John McPhee would have done with such a subject. Let's see, $350 shirts, $2,500 hotel stays, $1,000 straw hats—someone was definitely taken for a ride. Might it be Mayle's editor? (Bantam, $20)
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