Glen Ellen, California: May 10, 1984-February 11, 1985.
About the item
7-1/2 pp. total, typed on plain paper, with some manuscript emendations and corrections, with four envelopes. With an additional 1-p. letter of March 23, 1984, in photocopy. 4to (most 11 x 8-1/2 inches). Light creasing from prior folding.
A charming series of letters from the legendary food writer and memoirist M.F.K. Fisher (1908-1992), written from her final home in Glen Ellen, to one Maurice Gordon, a recently befriended fellow northern Californian, who shared with Fisher a love of food and travel. The letters reveal Fisher's easy manner and proclivity for making friends, even as she was progressively handicapped by the Parkinson's that afflicted her during the final ten years of her life.
Fisher and Gordon bonded over a mutual affection for Marseille ("I am absolutely delighted to find anyone who loves Marseille … and I don't need to tell you that there are few of us, for some really inexplicable reason"). Fisher recounts some of her memories of Marseille, a city whose seedy and tough reputation she celebrated in her writing. "Yes, I do know the Frantel, really pretty awful. But so is La Résidence! Wow! Once in about 1975 it had a big banner all across the front balcony saying there were apartments for rent, so when my sister and I went back in '77 to stay for several months, we though of it at once and went there from Beauvau. Of course the grumpy old concierge at the Beauvau was horrified when we asked him what he thought of our planning to stay there … but meanwhile we talked to the owner of La Résidence and he said that he had given up the idea of anything but transients. He was a really nice guy, in a truly Marseille tough horrible way, and obviously knew we would not fit in with his current clientèle … most of the people there were third-rate and rather exhausted old whores, with a few young Pin-Ball Boys and potential pimps."
Gordon was a manufacturer of bar equipment; his business, House of Stools 'N Bars, Ltd. was in Millbrae, CA. He delights Fisher with a gift of a bar stool: "The stool is absolutely perfect … handsome, simple, strong, and just my height … I use it every day …." Maurice and his wife Dorothy eventually visited Fisher at her home in Sonoma, and the friendship carries on with regular correspondence until the unexpected death of Maurice in December of 1984. At that point Fisher briefly continues the correspondence with Dorothy, including in one of her letters a recipe for Moroccan chermoula, a pungent herb sauce used as an accompaniment to grilled vegetables and meat. A final note, from September 10, 1991, is written by Fisher's assistant Margie Foster ("Mary Frances is doing fairly well, though her voice is almost completely gone now. She still enjoys listening to her visitors, though").
Fisher's papers are held at Radcliffe College's Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America. Her letters are uncommon on the market.