Watching acclaimed author Umberto Eco sucking delectable juice from the heads of shrimp while discussing his first best-selling novel ‘The Name of The Rose,’ later to be a Hollywood movie starring Sean Connery.
Sitting with crime writer John Grisham at the Bouillon Racine restaurant in the Latin Quarter of Paris discussing lawyers and murder.
Chatting with famed Italian film-maker Federico Fellini’s sister as she did her washing on the balcony of her small Rimini apartment.
John Baxter (l) and Frederico Fellini.
These are just some of the colorful memories that pepper the multi-faceted life of Australian-born, Paris-based author John Baxter, who has penned 44 books on subjects as diverse as sci-fi; corruption, crime and strip-clubs in 1990s Australia and the US; Gertrude Stein and her famous Paris writers’ salon, Salvador Dali and the Surrealists, the birth of Chanel No. 5, and the antics of Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and the ‘Lost Generation’ in Paris.
Not to mention an impressive array of biographies of renown personalities such as Steven Spielberg, Woody Allen, Stanley Kubrick, George Lucas, Robert De Niro, Federico Fellini and Luis Buñuel.
John Baxter and his wife, Marie-Dominique (l)
with John Grisham and his wife (r).
And the GOOD NEWS for participants at this October’s first-ever Paris Writing Retreat is that they will enjoy a golden opportunity to sit down with John over a delightful French lunch (accompanied by liberal amounts of fine wine, of course) and delve more into his fascinating adventures, as well as learn from an exclusive practical workshop hosted by him on the challenges of writing memoirs and biographies.
EVEN BETTER NEWS is that this unique Parisian afternoon ‘literary salon’ with John will take place in his elegant 6th floor bohemian apartment on the Left Bank, close to the verdant Luxembourg Gardens. On an extended terrace overlooking two of the most famous landmarks in the City of Light, Notre Dame Cathedral on the banks of the Seine, and the ornate Sacré-Cœur Basilica on the summit of Montmartre.
It is here, in this very building dating from 1760, that the legendary Sylvia Beach founder of Shakespeare and Company bookstore who first published James Joyce’s then controversial novel, ‘Ulysses,’ once lived. And it is also where the mysterious Marquis de Sade, master of the erotic, was born.
Raised in the Australian rural town of Junee, where gourmet dining meant, to use John’s own light-hearted words, ‘shearing the sheep before eating them,’ he decided as a young teenager there was a lot of the world he wanted to see and experience. That notion sent him on an international pathway that led him to the metropolises of Sydney, London, Los Angeles, Dublin, and now Paris where he spends his time with his writer and film-making wife, Marie-Dominique.
Mary Duncan, writer and publisher, founder of Paris Writers Club (l),
John Baxter and Sean Hillen (r).
A connoisseur of the senses, not only does John possess a passion for the arts, including books, music, theatre and film, but also for food. An epicurean, he has already written a book, ‘Eating Eternity,’ which offers a seductive menu of those places in the French capital where art and food have intersected. Here you’ll find where Napoleon proposed to Josephine, the cafes patronized by Ernest Hemingway, Henry Miller, Isadora Duncan and Man Ray, as well as out-of-the-way sites that incorporate Parisian culinary experiences.
With so many books to his name, John has certainly made an impact on the world of literature but as an avid collector owning thousands of rare editions his reputation is even stronger. This self-confessed, life-long addiction, which began at the tender age of 11, is comically and insightfully described by him in ‘A Pound of Paper.’
John Baxter (l) with Sean Hillen.
Filling two Parisian garages, floor-to-ceiling, his collection now comprises hundreds of thousands of books, posters, magazines and photographs. His precious first editions include ‘The Great Gatsby,’ which he bought in a California bookstore for 500 dollars in the mid-1970s and is now worth around 100,000 dollars; Gertrude Stein’s ‘The Making of Americans’ and James Joyce’s ‘Dubliners’ and ‘A Portrait Of The Artist As A Young Man.’
As for his favorite authors and books, Graham Greene stands high, especially ‘Brighton Rock,’ ‘The Heart Of The Matter’ and ‘A Burnt Out Case;’ F. Scott Fitzgerald, especially ‘Tender Is The Night’ and what John describes as his “spectacular” short stories; and even Kenneth Grahame’s ‘The Wind In The Willows’ about the woodland adventures of Messrs Toad, Mole, Rat and Badger.
John’s views on Paris are simple enough, “it’s a place where pleasure is not only encouraged, but studied and refined.”
A meeting with this rather extraordinary personage in such an intimate setting as a Parisian penthouse overlooking the City of Light is certainly one to be savored for many years to come. And only the ten people who register for the retreat will be the lucky ones.