In the south of France, somewhere between the narrow red-brick streets of Toulouse and the high-flung medieval castles at Lastours, is a small village called Montolieu.
In the early 90s it underwent a transformation, and became the Village of Books. In its sleepy streets there are 15 bookstores.
I've been on fruitless quest for books by F. Scott Fitzgerald that aren't hideous. I've found plenty of covers that look like bad 1920s cosplay. I've found covers that are fine... just fine. I've found covers that are abstract, and this makes them better than the bad cosplay covers, which are shameful.
So here in the village of books, I found one of the most beautiful covers for Tender is the Night:
There were old papers in a box by the door, among them some fashion prints from the 1920s, on worringly thin paper. I love how dynamic these figures are!
Villages like Montolieu frighten me. A lot of villages in France frighten me. They're small, and beautiful, and seem fragile. I don't know how they survive. Montolieu hosts used bookstores, artists and galleries, and apparently a cactus garden. It has a wide-open view of a river, and here you realize the village is precariously built on a cliff-face.
If you're in the Aude departement, please stop by and spend an afternoon here. I could have thrown hours into scrabbling through the discount book boxes. It's places like this that make you think, if you just hope to find something enough, you'll find it.