First Book of 2007

January 1, 2007

I started The Mystery Guest, by Gregoire Bouillier last night in 2006 but finished shortly after the ball dropped at Times Square.  The subtitle- “an account” is perfect for this “memoir” novella.  The book was intriguing and drew me in even before the first page of text.  Preceding the copyright page is a simple photograph of a bottle of French wine, copyrighted by Sophie Calle.  A page later is the author’s simple dedication “To Sophie Calle.”  After reading the translator’s note, I was hooked – “For reasons the reader will understand, I have neglected to translate the expression “C’est le bouquet.”  It means, more or less, “That takes the cake.””

The book is a quick read- 120 short pages that should be read in one sitting.  One is immediately drawn into the story, which encircles a single pivotal event in the narrator’s life. 

Since I was intrigued by the opening pages and then Sophie Calle showed up as a character in the novella, I did a Google search for “Sophie Calle,” not actually expecting to find anything relevant.  Ignorant me.  It turns out that Sophie is a well-known French conceptual artist/photographer, with several published art books with an unusual premise.  She completed a book entitled “The Hotel,” by taking a temporary job as a chambermaid.  She describes the book- “For each room there was a photograph of the bed undone, of other objects in the room, and a description day by day of what I found there.”   In 1980 she created a piece called “Suite Venitienne” in which she followed a man she had met at a party to Venice.  She followed and photographed him there for 2 weeks.  (Likely this would now be considered stalking or at least questionable behavior). 

As often happens with me, reading one book leads to another that I didn’t plan on.  The Calle book that I’m most drawn to is “Exquisite Pain.”  The publisher describes the book as “a visual record of the time in 1985 when a lover failed to meet Calle as promised at a hotel in New Delhi…. She kept everything from that journey- photographs, ticket stubs, visas, and letters…”  No luck at my library cooperative- the book is not available.  Nothing on ebay- there goes the budget.  $30 is about the cheapest price I can find.  This one may have to wait.

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2 Responses to “First Book of 2007”

  1. Kate S. Says:

    I’m waiting for a copy of “The Mystery Guest” to arrive at the library for me. Your account of it has me anticipating the book even more eagerly than I was before. I love it when books lead to other books in that fashion.

  2. w Says:

    Check out the notes that the translator (who also happened to be the book’s editor at FSG), Lorin Stein, published online. Also, there’s a weird and hilarious trailer that encapsulates the book perfectly.


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