What Would I Read At Villa del Faro?


As a teen-ager, Marcel Proust filled out a questionnaire as part of a parlor game. His responses have experienced a startling afterlife. PHOTOGRAPH BY IMAGNO / GETTY

Seth’s post, followed by Jocelyn’s post, both reach me just after reading this fascinating short history on the so-called Proust questionnaire, which I first encountered in the back pages of Vanity Fair magazine when I had nothing better to do. I am reminded of two things: guilty pleasure reading, and actual reading of something other than news, news analysis, or long-form non-fiction–which are a mainstay of my contributions on this site.

I am reminded of a third thing: Amie’s marathon reading of Proust, and the view of this 3-volume set around our home for a long stretch of time. Those books that she would lug around were the sign of an unreformed, unrepentant student of literature, whose career started as a book editor in New York City, when she had nothing better to do.


I say that mainly to contrast what I did with my guilty pleasure reading time back then, and what she did with hers. I say that because in more recent times, especially the past six years in India, she has had something much better to do, and plenty of it to do, and I think we are all better for that. Which has me thinking: if I had the time, what would I read if I could just leave it all behind right now and land at Villa del Faro with nothing but books (and at least a couple changes of clothes, of course)? Would I find that Proust set Amie has in storage? As an amateur nostalgist with limited writing talent, I might choose those volumes as a self-help guide.

9780394711843I write on this site partly to share about events, people and places that I believe are worthy of others’ attention; but also for the sake of further reflection and sense-making of those. Patterns repeat; some people and places important once come back to be important again.  For example, nearly five years ago I was on my third of five extended periods of work in Baja California Sur.  It was on an earlier visit in 2008 that I had met Andy Murphy, then with WWF, with whom I became friends and then eventually more with our project in Ghana. Continue reading