Monday, September 13, 2010

of excavations and au revoir Chabrol

I guess it's returning to my 'roots' but it feels strange. Like going back in time, excavating the past; as I imgaine the workers who dug below ground for a parking lot and found this section of the Phillipe August wall dated 1200 AD. My wonderful publisher Soho is re-issuing my first book, Murder in the Marais, in all formats, and said 'now's the time if you want to go back and change anything you've always wanted to.' It scared me at first, I wrote that book in the mid-nineties and written ten since but it was a chance to go back and clean up mistakes.

I had buried Baudelaire in the wrong cemetary, realized I'd gotten a street wrong in Paris that only went one way instead of two, and given away my heroine's exact age. Something a French women would never, never do. It also presented challenges - should I age her, did I have to? Wasn't she's ageless, as I think of her, yet she'd gone through a lot of physical abuse in these books. But it gave me a perspective, re-reading the Marais, I realized how Aimee and her cohorts have grown, changed and lived through events, their perspective and attitudes deepened in the books. A surprise to me since I never knew I'd write a series, let alone get my first book published. The first book gives one freedom, you have no boundaries, no rules except the one you make up. And no complicated family tree, work and romantic relationships which you need to remember seven books down the road. Shoot your wad, go for broke, as you can in the debut book because that might be the only shot you get - I took that to heart.
Now that I'm going back, checking details on googleearth which didn't exist when I wrote the book - google was just an idea in two guys heads down at Stanford, I can change that peron's name to the proper French spelling and make someone the friend of Aimée's father which I'd meant to do quite a few years ago.
Now I'm excavating and it feels like finding part of the oldest wall left in Paris, like I did, in an underground parking lot.
You might have parked here. Or walked over this above at Odeon.

This weekend Claude Chabrol, a founder of the new wave cinema who made over 80 films, passed away. When Chabrol made his first film, Le Beau Serge, in 1958, using a small inheritance of his first wife's, he shot it in black and white, on location in his home town of Sardent. It became the first feature film of the new wave, a critical and commercial success, enabling Chabrol to act as "godfather" to his friends, who were also eager to make their first films.
His friends, film buffs at the Cinémathèque Française and at the Ciné-Club des Quartiers Latins, where they chewed the fat and argued over the finer points of film technique. The "gang", all of whom became film-makers in their own right, included Eric Rohmer, Jacques Rivette, Jean-Luc Godard and François Truffaut.

Squat, bespectacled and rotund, Chabrol played the joker, resembling nothing so much as a startled owl. Though his films ie La Grande Bouffe pilloried the bourgeoisie – its foibles and petty cruelties – he was himself bourgeoise and shared many of its values: property, wealth and domesticity. What I liked best about this bon vivant was how he made fun of himself and his 'class' because as he said 'only some one who's a bourgeoisie, can truly show them'. Years ago I walked in the courtyard of 22 Place des Vosges looking for clues to Georges Simenon, creator of Inspector Maigret, who'd once lived there and discovered that Claude Chabrol lived here. I wish I'd seen Chabrol, been able to express my appreciation for all his films. But I only saw his 17th century townhouse in the courtyard in the throes of renovation. A jewel.
So au revoir and merci Monsieur Chabrol,
Cara - Tuesday


  1. Cara--

    I second that emotion. Chabrol is dead, long live Chabrol.


  2. "I had buried Baudelaire in the wrong cemetary..." Oh, all the pleasures of being a writer :D