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The Piano Shop on the Left Bank: Discovering a Forgotten Passion in a… (2000)

by Thad Carhart

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1,2663912,990 (3.98)90
Carhart rediscovers his love of the piano when he finds Luc's little store in Paris which is crammed full of dismantled pianos and arcane repair tools. Inspired, Carhart begins to search for the baby grand of his dreams.
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Showing 1-5 of 39 (next | show all)
It works. It's a memoir that actually works. In fact it works so well that it reads like a story and I'm still having trouble figuring out if large swatches of it were made up. But that's not the most impressive part of this book. It does not focus on the author. Let me rephrase that because these days it's important: I typically don't read memoirs because I appear to be allergic to texts that are designed to elevate the author's ego instead of telling an authentic story. This is not one of those, even though it is all about the author. He is not the subject. So what is this memoir about?

Here we have a memoir that explores humanity through acute observations of culture and human behavior. But it's not a text book or a dry summing up. Neither is it a novel or an autobiography.

The central core of the book is an old piano workshop in Paris. It is inhabited by either typical Parisians or eccentrics, depending on if you're European or not. Being from Europe these people seemed just regular folk. Living in the US I can see them being seen as eccentric or even crazy.

We learn about the personal history of the author with pianos and piano playing. We learn about the obsessions and fascinations of others and pianos and we mostly learn about how music gets us to a place that can't be obtained through logic or pure reasoning. And it's all told in a way that allows anyone access to those experiences, be it second hand, through this book.

Do I sound overly excited about this book? Having read dozens of non-fiction books that are all thinly veiled ego pumps I have to say: yes I am very excited about this work. ( )
  TheCriticalTimes | Feb 17, 2021 |
may have given to Hunter - but I remember it vividly - if cannot locate will buy another copy - from Cove Island or Biblio ( )
  Overgaard | Feb 1, 2021 |
For the love of pianos. Carhart was living in France, in Paris, writing, when he decided to enter a piano shop near his home. It was a piano repair shop, he saw, and there were many different pianos there.

The visit awakened a long-time love of pianos. Having taken lessons as a child, Carhart knew he was no piano genius, but he loved pianos. When he went back and asked whether they sold used pianos from time to time he was put off. Yes, they did, sometimes, but...And when he went back again and again and asked the same questions he continued to get the same vague brushoff.

He told a friend of this, a friend who played, and she said to drop her name and he would be let in. It seems odd, doesn't it, that a shop would be reluctant about advertising its sales? But it wasn't, not when he understood. He did go back and mention that a friend of his had bought her piano there, and the owner started to loosen up. After a few more times Carhart was accepted and allowed to peruse the pianos for sale. He learned that the owner always wanted to make sure that his pianos found the right owners, rather like an animal shelter wants to find the right companion humans for its animals. He chose one to buy and had it delivered.

It needed tuning, of course, after moving. Tuning became a major part of the experience after Carhart accepted the recommendation of the piano shop by bringing in an older tuner who had to be monitored, for he had a tendency to drink too much. The work this man did was extraordinary. Carhart's understanding of tuning increased immeasurably, and as a result we are treated to a detailed examination of the process.

A non-fiction book about pianos. It could be dryer than dust but it isn't. There are the lively descriptions of the elderly piano shop owner and the new one, as well as of the tuner. There are the reactions of friends, the compulsion of Carhart to start taking lessons again. And the pianos themselves. Many differences among them, from their physical appearance to the type of sound they make. Carhart even travels to Italy to see first-hand what is considered the finest piano currently being made: Fazioli.

It is no wonder my own piano tuner enthusiastically recommended this book. I already had it on my shelves but had not read it, so down it came. Strengthening in me too, the love I have always had for pianos. ( )
  slojudy | Sep 8, 2020 |
There is a category of travel writing where the author sets up shop in a locale and reports back on that specific setting (a town, a city, a country, a region) without the 'motion' that is associated with much of travel writing. This book is a great example of that, with the further wrinkle where the author focuses not only on the fine-grained reality of his neighborhood in Paris, but specifically on the comings and goings of people associated with one specific Piano shop. A wonderful slice of the world I will never encounter myself. ( )
  sarcher | Jul 7, 2019 |
Very specific subject. Very technical but easy to understand. Makes u want to practice and even own a real piano again ( )
  kakadoo202 | May 11, 2019 |
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Along a narrow street in the Paris neighborhood where I live sits a little store front with a simple sign stencilled on the window: 'Desforges Pianos: outillage, fournitures'.
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Carhart rediscovers his love of the piano when he finds Luc's little store in Paris which is crammed full of dismantled pianos and arcane repair tools. Inspired, Carhart begins to search for the baby grand of his dreams.

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