Mayle, Peter 1939–
Mayle, Peter 1939–
Born 1939, in Surrey, England; married; third wife's name Jennie; children: (first marriage) three sons; (second marriage) two daughters.
Home—Provence, France. Office—Gentleman's Quarterly, Conde Nast Publications, 350 Madison Ave., New York, NY 10017-3703.
Writer, novelist, columnist, and copywriter. Worked in London, England, as an advertising copywriter.
Best Travel Book of the Year designation, British Book Awards, 1989, for A Year in Provence.
Hotel Pastis: A Novel of Provence, Knopf (New York, NY), 1993.
A Dog's Life, Knopf (New York, NY), 1995.
Anything Considered, Knopf (New York, NY), 1996.
Chasing Cézanne, Knopf (New York, NY), 1997.
A Good Year, Knopf (New York, NY), 2004.
How to Be a Pregnant Father: An Illustrated Survival Guide for the First-time Father, illustrated by Arthur Robins, Lyle Stuart (Secaucus, NJ), 1977.
Baby Taming, illustrated by Arthur Robins, Crown (New York, NY), 1978.
Anything but Rover—the Art and Science of Naming Your Dog: A Breed by Breed Guide, Including Mongrels, illustrated by Arthur Robins, A. Barker, 1985.
A Year in Provence, Hamish Hamilton (London, England), 1989, published with illustrations by Judith Clancy, Knopf (New York, NY), 1990.
(With Raffaella Fletcher) Dangerous Candy: A True Drug Story by Someone Who Did Them and Kicked Them, Sinclair-Stevenson (London, England), 1990, published as Dangerous Candy: A True Story about Drug Addiction, Trafalgar Square (North Pomfret, VT), 1991.
Toujours Provence, Knopf (New York, NY), 1991.
Acquired Tastes: A Beginner's Guide to Serious Pleasures, Bantam (New York, NY), 1992.
Up the Agency: The Funny Business of Advertising, St. Martin's (New York, NY), 1993.
Provence, photographs by Jason Hawkes, Random House (New York, NY), 1994.
Encore Provence: New Adventures in the South of France, Knopf (New York, NY), 1999.
French Lessons: Adventures with Knife, Fork, and Corkscrew, Knopf (New York, NY), 2001.
(With Gerard Auzet) Confessions of a French Baker: Breadmaking Secrets, Tips, and Recipes, Knopf (New York, NY), 2005.
Provence A-Z, Knopf (New York, NY), 2006.
(Author of introduction, with Ridley Scott) A Good Year: Portrait of the Film Based on the Novel by Peter Mayle, Newmarket Press (New York, NY), 2007.
NONFICTION FOR YOUNG PEOPLE
Where Did I Come From? The Facts of Life without Any Nonsense and with Illustrations, illustrated by Arthur Robins and Paul Walter, Carol Publishing Group(Secaucus, NJ), 1973, African-American edition published with illustrations adapted by Zina Sauders, Carol Publishing Group (Secaucus, NJ), 1999.
What's Happening to Me? The Answers to Some of the World's Most Embarrassing Questions, illustrated by Arthur Robins and Paul Walter, Carol Publishing Group (Secaucus, NJ), 1975.
"Will I Go to Heaven?," Corwin, 1976.
"Will I Like It?" Your First Sexual Experience, What to Expect, What to Avoid, and How Both of You Can Get the Most out of It, photographs by John Thornton, Corwin, 1977.
Divorce Can Happen to the Nicest People, illustrated by Arthur Robins, Macmillan (New York, NY), 1979, revised edition published as Why Are We Getting a Divorce?, Crown (New York, NY), 1988.
(With Paul Rice) As Dead as a Dodo, illustrated by Shawn Rice, David Godine (Boston, MA), 1981.
(With Arthur Robins) Congratulations! You're Not Pregnant: An Illustrated Guide to Birth Control, Macmillan (New York, NY), 1981.
(With Arthur Robins) Grown-ups and Other Problems: Help for Small People in a Big World, Macmillan (New York, NY), 1982.
Sweet Dreams and Monsters: A Beginner's Guide to Dreams and Nightmares and Things That Go Bump under the Bed, illustrated by Arthur Robins, Crown (New York, NY), 1986.
The Honeymoon Book, illustrated by Gray Jolliffe, Ballantine (New York, NY), 1983.
Chilly Billy, illustrated by Arthur Robins, Crown (New York, NY), 1983.
Man's Best Friend: Introducing Wicked Willie in the Title Role, illustrated by Gray Jolliffe, Crown (New York, NY), 1984.
Wicked Willie's Guide to Women: A Worm's-Eye View of the Fair Sex, illustrated by Gray Jolliffe, Pan Books (London, England), 1986, Crown (New York, NY), 1987.
Wicked Willie's Guide to Women: The Further Adventures of Man's Best Friend, illustrated by Gray Jolliffe, Crown (New York, NY), 1988.
Also author, with Gray Jolliffe, of screenplay Wicked Willie. Contributor of articles to periodicals, including London Sunday Times, Financial Times, Independent, and Esquire. Also contributor to Adventures in Wine, edited by Thom Elkjer, Travelers' Tales (San Francisco, CA), 2002. Author of column "Expensive Habits," Gentleman's Quarterly.
A Year in Provence was adapted for audiocassette, Books on Tape, 1992, and for television by British Broadcasting Corporation; French Lessons: Adventures with Knife, Fork, and Corkscrew was adapted for audiocassette. A Good Year was adapted to film; What's Happening to Me? and Where Did I Come From? were adapted as animated videos.
With a background that includes thirteen years as an advertising executive in both New York City and London, Peter Mayle is the author of novels, nonfiction works for both children and adults, and several collections of humorous essays: A Year in Provence, Toujours Provence, and Acquired Tastes: A Beginner's Guide to Serious Pleasures.
Mayle came to write A Year in Provence after he and his wife emigrated from London to Provence, a region in the rural south of France. The couple purchased and restored a mas, or ancient stone farmhouse, in a small village in the Luberon mountains. A Year in Provence recounts the joys of this region—the sun, the climate, and the world-renowned cuisine—as well as the natural disasters he encountered, including mistrals—or icy winds—and damaging floods. The work opens with a New Year's Day lunch and concludes with a Christmas dinner in celebration of the completion of the renovations. In addition to food, the ongoing themes include the eccentric, unreliable repairmen who are constantly present—though rarely efficient—throughout the year. Mayle also shares anecdotes concerning other members of the community and the customs in the local village, such as goat races and hunting for mushrooms. "Like a good host," commented New York Times Book Review contributor Betty Fussell, Mayle "entertains us with course after course of comic characters." Writing in the Times Literary Supplement, Hiram Winterbotham noted the author's "keen eye for the absurd" and called A Year in Provence "an accurate and informative picture of the pattern of rural life seen through urban eyes."
Toujours Provence, Mayle's sequel to A Year in Provence, is another collection of essays in which he further explores the characters and scenes already introduced. The title confirms the author's decision, having lived out the first year, to remain in Provence permanently. Whereas the first book follows a month-by-month format within a specified time period, the episodes in Toujours Provence are not arranged in chronological order, so that the work reads less like a single narrative and more as a group of separate essays. The work begins with Mayle receiving fan letters from readers of A Year in Provence. Although he is initially pleased with their flattery, the situation rapidly takes a turn for the worse when the fans begin arriving, uninvited, at the author's home, invading his privacy and interfering with his peaceful existence. Other adventures include digging for gold in his backyard, sneaking through customs with a suitcase full of expensive truffles, and encountering a choir conductor who leads a group of singing toads. As in A Year in Provence, descriptions of sumptuous meals figure prominently in many of the essays. New York Times Book Review contributor Frank J. Prial, who likened Mayle's portrayal of the Avignon market to "a small, carved gem," found Toujours Provence to be comfortably reminiscent of its predecessor, and a Library Journal critic commented: "Mayle conjures up hilarious images in vivid prose." The author's love affair with his adopted home continued in Provence, a work in which his colorful, sometimes comic ruminations about his Mediterranean surroundings are framed by highly praised photographs by Jason Hawkes.
Acquired Tastes was the result of an assignment he undertook for Gentleman's Quarterly magazine. The author was given a generous bank account and instructed to mingle with the wealthy and report back on various aspects of luxury living. Mayle rose to this task with characteristic enthusiasm, and his columns—covering topics such as clothing, liquor, hotels, restaurants, limousines, servants, Parisian bistros, cigars, second homes, lawyers, tipping, Christmas, and New York City—became the various chapters in Acquired Tastes. Among Mayle's extravagant exploits are his spending 1,300 dollars for a pair of "hand-cut, hand-stitched, hand-built" shoes and 350 dollars for a custom-made Parisian shirt. Although calling the chapters somewhat inconsistent in quality, William Grimes, writing in the New York Times Book Review, called Mayle "a writer who never fails to entertain." A Publishers Weekly critic commented that Acquired Tastes "scintillates with wit, brio, and trenchant observations."
Hotel Pastis: A Novel of Provence, Mayle's first novel, takes place in the fast-paced, high-pressure world of Madison Avenue advertising. Mayle's novel fictionalizes the life of one Simon Shawn: mid-forties, divorced, and tired enough of the rat race to escape to (not surprisingly for Mayle) the south of France. In the town of Brassiere-les-Deaux-Eglis he finds a run-down police headquarters, which he decides to re-outfit into a luxury hotel. A brusque and proper major-domo, a buxom French mistress, and a poorly conceived bank robbery by a collection of second-rate hoodlums add to the mix in what Eric Kraft, in a review in the New York Times Book Review, called a "delightful, amusing, and appealing" novel. Hotel Pastis is "a merry celebration of sensual pleasures," continued Kraft, "the ideal book to read lazily on the terrace at a jewel of a hotel in the Provencal sun."
Looking at Mayle's beloved French landscape from a slightly more earthbound perspective, A Dog's Life purports to be the memoirs of Boy, who is in fact the same dog introduced to readers in Mayle's nonfictional Toujours Provence. After escaping from a heavy-handed French farmer, Boy finds peace as the adopted pet of an expatriate British couple, from whom he receives "a wide ranging, eclectic education" that includes the full range of socially acceptable—but to a dog, ludicrous—human behaviors and foibles. Calling the novel "ingenious," Bruce McCall noted in the New York Times Book Review that in A Dog's Life Mayle "turns the tables" on the typical pull-at-the-heartstrings pet story by featuring a canine protagonist that "is no tail-wagging Fido but a crafty, cynical manipulator." While Charlotte O'Sullivan also commended the novel for its originality, she noted in her review in the Observer that "leading with a pooch, [Mayle] presumably hopes we won't notice he's flogging the same shoddy old goods." A reviewer for Publishers Weekly found the novel, which shares its Provence setting with much of Mayle's writing, a "sprightly account" and "a gem of its kind."
Anything Considered follows in the same vein as Hotel Pastis, featuring an expatriate searching for refuge in the south of France. Luciano Bennett, an Englishman who has lost most of his money in an investment-gone-wrong, searches for a way to live in the Provence village of Saint-Martin. After he runs a Work Wanted ad along the lines of "Anything considered, except marriage," he meets up with the wealthy Julian Poe, who is in search of ways to avoid paying his share of French income tax. The solution: Bennett impersonates Poe at Poe's Monte Carlo estate to fulfill Monaco residency requirements, while Poe gets to enjoy his life in Provence. The hitch: Poe is involved in a shady deal regarding the cultivation secrets for some rare black truffles, and when he asks Bennett for a favor in exchange for his luxurious accommodations, trouble ensues, in the form of a beautiful but deadly American spy named Anna, death threats, mafioso pursuers, and a chase through the gastronomic high points of France. "Mayle makes froth highly palatable in this larky chronicle," commented a reviewer in Publishers Weekly.
Chasing Cézanne concerns an apparent art forgery among the jet-setting set and the efforts of Andre Kelly, a freelance photographer for fashion magazines, to foil the caper. Kyle Smith in People found that in his new novel, Mayle displays "the easygoing wit and dead-on satire" characteristic of much of his writing.
Encore Provence: New Adventures in the South of France, like its predecessors, introduces readers to little-known areas of the author's beloved France. Returning to Provence after a four-year absence spent in New York City, Mayle renews "his acquaintance with the land he so loves" in a collection of essays that are "laced with humor but encompass true respect and admiration" for his adopted country, noted a critic for Booklist. Encore Provence is organized as a series of essays on various topics relating to Provence, with chapters such as "How to Be a Nose," an essay on the perfume industry; "In Search of the Perfect Corkscrew"; and "The Genetic Effects of Two Thousand Years of Foie Gras." Daneet Steffens, writing in Entertainment Weekly, commented that Mayle "does manage wickedly funny moments." He "can't seem to string two sentences together without saying something about food," commented Todd Pack for the Knight-Ridder/Tribune News Service, "And he does it with and charm." Europe magazine contributor Robert J. Guttman praised Mayle's skill in "capturing the unique flavor of Provence in a humorous and, at times, outrageous light."
Mayle returns to a familiar theme—French food and culture—in a slightly different format with French Lessons: Adventures with Knife, Fork, and Corkscrew. This collection of essays focuses on French food, wine, festivals, and celebrations. Like his previous books, which mainly focused on his adopted region of Provence, French Lessons will "inspire readers to travel, eat fine food … and applaud evocative writing for its own sake," enthused Brad Hooper in Booklist.
Mayle applies his deep knowledge and thorough love for France and Provence to the story of fallen banker Max Skinner in the novel A Good Year. A financial expert in London, Skinner's career is sabotaged when his immediate boss steals a major client right before a significant deal is about to be finished. As his professional life collapses around him, Skinner receives notice that he has inherited a farmhouse and large vineyard in Provence, left to him by his Uncle Henry. Lacking enthusiasm to continue working in finance, Max sets off to explore the possibilities of becoming a gentleman winemaker. Max's best friend and ex-brother-in-law Charlie gives him a loan to help put the vineyard in order and launch the winemaking business. Once there, Max takes in the local scenery and develops an eye for the local women, including Nathalie Auzet, the notaire who handled the property transfer, and Fanny, the buxom and vivacious owner of the local bistro. As the story progresses, Max realizes that the wine label he inherited, Le Griffon, is virtually undrinkable, and he has to find a solution to the problems inherent in producing a wine that no one wants. Soon, he learns about another local wine, Le Coin Perdu, a Bordeaux originating from a tiny vineyard but of exceptionally high quality, commanding 40,000 dollars per case. Could the lucrative patch of grapes actually be a part of the property he inherited from his uncle? Further, Skinner has to determine if those around him, including the caretaker and Nathalie, are trying to conceal something important from him. "Mayle's simple story provides lighthearted if unadventurous reading and a fond endorsement of the pleasures of viniculture," observed a Publishers Weekly reviewer. Booklist reviewer Brad Hooper concluded: "The entertaining threads in this absolutely embracing novel are woven into a vibrant design."
Confessions of a French Baker: Breadmaking Secrets, Tips, and Recipes contains expert advice on breadmaking from coauthor Gerard Auzet, an award-winning baker from Cavaillon, Provence. Mayle and Auzet's collaboration "yields a mix of regional history, first-person essay, and a portrait of a family boulangerie through the generations," noted a Publishers Weekly reviewer. Auzet relates details of the craft and science of breadmaking. He includes traditional recipes for sixteen types of French breads, including baguettes, boules, and batards, and offers expert suggestions for assessing bread quality. Auzet also notes how breads can be enhanced with other ingredients, such as olives, nuts, garlic, and thyme, and suggests specific wines that work best with particular types of breads. With their detailed work, Mayle and Auzet "present an entree for the home breadsmith," commented Booklist reviewer Mark Knoblauch. The book offers "baking wisdom competitors can't match for tone, content, and insights," noted Diane C. Donovan in MBR Bookwatch.
As a dedicated Francophile and self-made expert on Provence, Mayle is particularly qualified to offer Provence A-Z, an alphabetical compendium of more than 200 essays covering a variety of French and Provencal topics. Mayle "has once again trapped the sunshine, the wind and the very lavender-laden air of the southeastern French countryside in his prose," remarked a Publishers Weekly contributor. He covers such topics as food, the seasons, cultural issues, architecture, and more. Mayle's work, which Booklist reviewer Brad Hooper called "a personal and personable book," is a "delightful education for armchair travelers" or for those whose itinerary includes a stop in Provence.
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Mayle, Peter, Acquired Tastes: A Beginner's Guide to Serious Pleasures, Bantam (New York, NY), 1992.
Mayle, Peter, A Dog's Life, Knopf (New York, NY), 1995.
Booklist, May 1, 1999, Brad Hooper, review of Encore Provence: New Adventures in the South of France, p. 1556; January 1, 2002, Brad Hooper, review of French Lessons: Adventures with Knife, Fork, and Corkscrew, p. 758; April 15, 2004, Brad Hooper, review of A Good Year, p. 1405; October 1, 2005, Mark Knoblauch, review of Confessions of a French Baker: Breadmaking Secrets, Tips, and Recipes, p. 13; September 15, 2006, Brad Hooper, review of Provence A-Z, p. 22.
California Bookwatch, January, 2007, review of Confessions of a French Baker.
Entertainment Weekly, June 11, 1999, Daneet Steffens, review of Encore Provence, p. 60; June 25, 2004, Allyssa Lee, review of A Good Year, p. 170; November 24, 2006, Hannah Tucker and Michelle Kung, "Reel Lit," movie review of A Good Year, p. 113.
Europe, March, 2000, Robert J. Guttman, review of Encore Provence, p. 37.
Globe and Mail (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), July 3, 1999, review of Encore Provence, p. D15.
Harper's Bazaar, May, 1999, Phoebe Hoban, "Reading to Go," p. 154.
Kirkus Reviews, May 1, 1999, review of Encore Provence, p. 701; April 1, 2004, review of A Good Year, p. 289.
Library Journal, May 1, 1991, Wilda Williams, review of Toujours, Provence, p. 93; October 1, 1993, William W. Sanwald, review of Up the Agency: The Funny Business of Advertising, p. 124; June 1, 1999, Wilda Williams, review of Encore Provence, p. 150; June 15, 2004, Michele Leber, review of A Good Year, p. 59; September 15, 2006, Ravi Shenoy, review of Provence A-Z, p. 78.
Los Angeles Times Book Review, July 4, 1999, review of Encore Provence, p. 11.
MBR Bookwatch, January, 2006, Diane C. Donovan, "Confessions of a French Baker."
National Review, July 6, 1992, Morris Geoffrey, review of Acquired Tastes: A Beginner's Guide to Serious Pleasures, p. 58.
New Yorker, October 25, 1993, review of Hotel Pastis: A Novel of Provence, p. 131.
New York Times Book Review, May 13, 1990, Betty Fussell, review of A Year in Provence, p. 8; June 9, 1991, Frank J. Prial, review of Toujours Provence, p. 9; May 31, 1992, William Grimes, review of Acquired Tastes, p. 37; October 17, 1993, Eric Kraft, review of Hotel Pastis, p. 11; April 9, 1995, Bruce McCall, review of A Dog's Life, p. 11; June 9, 1996, Alan Riding, review of Anything Considered, p. 16; June 6, 1999, Adam Goodheart, review of Encore Provence, p. 7.
Observer (London, England), October 22, 1995, review of A Dog's Life, p. 16.
People, August 16, 1999, Kyle Smith, review of Encore Provence, p. 47.
Philadelphia Inquirer, August 17, 2004, Sandy Bauers, "Another Serving of Leftovers from Peter Mayle," review of A Good Year.
Publishers Weekly, April 6, 1992, review of Acquired Tastes, p. 47; August 2, 1993, review of Hotel Pastis, p. 62; August 16, 1993, review of Up the Agency, p. 96; October 11, 1993, Michael Field, "Peter Mayle: The Witty Chronicler of Life in Provence Chooses That Setting for His First Novel," p. 65; September 5, 1994, review of Encore Provence, p. 100; February 13, 1995, review of A Dog's Life, p. 63; May 6, 1996, review of Anything Considered, p. 67; May 10, 1999, review of Encore Provence, p. 50; August 6, 2001, review of French Lessons, p. 33; May 24, 2004, review of A Good Year, p. 43; October 10, 2005, review of Confessions of a French Baker, p. 54; September 18, 2006, review of Provence A-Z, p. 50.
Time, July 22, 1991, Patrick Duffy, "How to Eat, How to Live: Sick of Foul British Weather Peter Mayle Finds a Paradise in Provence, and even a Pot of Gold," pp. 62-63.
Times Literary Supplement, August 4, 1989, Hiram Winterbotham, review of A Year in Provence, p. 844; April 26, 1991, Adam Thorpe, review of Toujours, Provence, 21; July 30, 1999, review of Encore Provence, p. 29.
Wall Street Journal, June 11, 1999, Gabriella Stern, review of Encore Provence, p. W8.
Washington Post Book World, June 28, 1998, review of Chasing Cezanne, p. 12; June 6, 1999, Michael Dirda, review of Encore Provence, p. 19.
Internet Movie Database,http://www.imdb.com (March 10, 2007), filmography of Peter Mayle.
Peter Mayle Home Page,http://www.petermayle.com (March 10, 2007).