One of my favorite reads in recent months was this beautifully written piece in the New Yorker, by Thomas Chatterton Williams. (I should disclose that the writer is a friend, but I so thoroughly enjoyed the story and thought it too good not to share.) While on holiday in the Cote d'Azur, Williams and his cohorts - his wife and a friend - managed to sneak into the abandoned former home of one of his heroes, literary and cultural icon James Baldwin. The villa in Saint-Paul-de-Vence, where Baldwin resided from 1970 until his death in 1987, now languishes in a woeful state of neglect, and its fate remains unclear. Although slated to be razed by developers seeking to capitalize on its spectacular views, work seems to have stalled and the property remains largely untouched.
I enjoyed the story as much for its painterly rendering of the locale as for the glimpse into the thoughts and sensations the experience triggered in the mind of the writer, as he mulls over what exactly he was hoping to find inside the home, ruminates on Baldwin's decision to take up residence there, segues into an exploration of why his voice has experienced such a resurgence as of late, and grapples with the thought that the crumbling physical vestiges of his footprint in France might soon be erased.
I won't spoil it for you, but suffice it to say that its well worth a read, and I won't blame you if it inspires a jaunt to le Midi. TCW's description of the fascinating La Colombe d'Or had me mentally packing my bags. Having played host to a formidable roster of artists, writers, and other intriguing persons, the walls of the 1920's restaurant-turned-retreat and former Baldwin haunt must reverberate with stories.