- Publisher: Penguin Random House Audio Publishing Gr
- Date: Feb 2016
From the cover
Along a narrow street in the paris neighborhood where i live sits a little
store front with a simple sign stenciled on the window: "Desforges Pianos:
outillage, fournitures." On a small, red felt-covered shelf in the window
are displayed the tools and instruments of piano repair: tightening
wrenches, tuning pins, piano wire, several swatches of felt, and various
small pieces of hardware from the innards of a piano. Behind the shelf the
interior of the shop is hidden by a curtain of heavy white gauze. The
entire façade has a sleepy, nineteenth-century charm about it, the window
frame and the narrow door painted a dark green.
Not so many years ago, when our children were in kindergarten, this shop
lay along their route to school, and I passed it on foot several times on
the days when it was my turn to take them to school and to pick them up.
On the way to their classes in the morning there was never time to stop.
The way back was another matter. After exchanging a few words with other
parents, I would often take an extra ten minutes to retrace my steps,
savoring the sense of promise and early morning calm that at this hour
The quiet street was still out of the way and narrow enough to be paved
with the cobblestones that on larger avenues in the city have been covered
with asphalt. In the early morning a fresh stream of water invariably ran
high in the gutters, the daily tide set forth by the street sweepers who,
rain or shine, open special valves set into the curb and then channel the
flow of jetsam with rolled-up scraps of carpet as they swish it along with
green plastic brooms. The smell from la boulangerie du coin, the local
bakery, always greeted me as I turned the corner, the essence of freshly
baked bread never failing to fill me with desire and expectation. I would
buy a baguette for lunch and, if I could spare ten minutes before getting
to work, treat myself to a second cup of coffee at the café across the
street from the piano shop.
In these moments, stopping in front of the strange little storefront, I
would consider the assortment of objects haphazardly displayed there.
Something seemed out of place about this specialty store in our quiet
quartier, far from the conservatories or concert halls and their related
music stores that sprinkle a select few neighborhoods. Was it possible
that an entire business was maintained selling piano parts and repair
tools? Often a small truck was pulled up at the curb with pianos being
loaded or unloaded and trundled into the shop on a handcart. Did pianos
need to be brought to the shop to be repaired? Elsewhere I had always
known repairs to be done on site; the bother and expense of moving pianos
was prohibitive, to say nothing of the problem of storing them.
Once I saw it as a riddle, it filled the few minutes left to me on those
quiet mornings when I would walk past the shop, alone and wondering. After
all, this was but one more highly specialized store in a city known for
its specialties and refinements. Surely there were enough pianos in Paris
to sustain a trade in their parts. But still my doubt edged into
curiosity; I saw myself opening the door to the shop and finding something
new and unexpected each time, like a band of smugglers or an eccentric
music school. And then I decided to find out for myself.
I had avoided going into the shop for many weeks for the simple reason
that I did not have a piano. What pretext could I have in a piano
furnisher's when I didn't even own the instrument they repaired? Should I