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Likely Stories : The Piano Shop on the Left Bank, by Thad Carhart


I’m Jim McKeown, welcome to Likely Stories, a weekly review of fiction, non-fiction, and poetry.

I have often tried numerous times to achieve even a minimal amount of skill on a piano.  Thad Carhart’s wonderful book, The Piano on the Left Bank: Discovering a Forgotten Passion in a Paris Atelier, gives me many interesting insights into music.  Thad is a dual citizen of Ireland and the US, and he has spent much of his life in France.  He now lives in Paris with his wife and children.

Chapter one begins, “Along a narrow street in the Paris neighborhood where I live sits a little store front with a simple sign on the window: ‘Desforges Piano: Furniture Repair.’  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” (3). 

Luc, who owns a piano shop, advises Thad to get a customer of his own to help his ability to improve his abilities.  Thad writes, “I was puzzled by the necessity of finding a customer before I could become one and I didn’t know how to go about it.  I no longer believed that this out-of-the-way shop was merely what it proclaimed on its sign, a piano parts store.  // For the next few weeks, whenever I had dealings in the quartier, I made a point of asking as offhandedly as possible if anyone had done business with the piano shop on our street.  Most often people had not even noticed it or, if they had never gone in.  I began to resign myself to failure, to remaining an outsider in this closed world” (9).

Thad attempts to “find” his piano.  “Summer set in early and the sidewalks in the quartier came alive after hours.  In a city where few apartments are air-conditioned, the terraces of cafés and restaurants become the common refuge from a withering heat in the evening.  The long light of June and July encouraged those gathered at the outdoor tables to linger well into the night, while swallows threaded the air with their shrill whistles.  Before the August dispersion, everyone in the neighborhood seemed to revel in the slower pace that the heat imposed. // As the weather grew warmer, I stopped by the shop several times to talk to Luc and to see what treasures he had gathered.  I had recently made a career change, leaving the corporate job that had originally brought us to Paris and setting up as an independent writer.  While my hours were as long as before, my work schedule was far more flexible, and I took advantage of the new arrangement to indulge myself in these brief visits” (20-21).

The Piano Shop on the Left Bank by Thad Carhart is a wonderful window opening to music for all lovers of music—especially piano music.  5 Stars

Likely Stories is a production of KWBU.  I’m Jim McKeown.  Join me again next time for Likely Stories, and happy reading!

Life-long voracious reader, Jim McKeown, is an English Instructor at McLennan Community College. His "Likely Stories" book review can be heard every Thursday on KWBU-FM! Reviews include fiction, biographies, poetry and non-fiction. Join us for Likely Stories every Thursday featured during Morning Edition and All Things Considered with encore airings Saturday and Sunday during Weekend Edition.