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The Piano Shop on the Left Bank: Discovering a Forgotten Passion in a Paris Atelierby Thaddeus Carhart
Reading Group Guide
1. As much as it is a history of the piano, The Piano Shop on the Left Bank also offers a warm account of the authors friendship with Luc, the ateliers master. When Carhart first meets Luc, he offers Carhart his right forearm to shake, since his hands were wet. Carhart observes that this is a particularly French custom. What other customs does Carhart encounter that might surprise or startle an American observer? What might be an explanation for the French way of doing things?
2. Carhart admits that, with Luc as a guide, he begins to feel as though hes looking at pianos for the first time. How would you describe Lucs attitude towards the piano? What characteristics does Luc find attractive in the pianos that pass through his restorers hands?
3. In the chapter entitled “Miss Pemberton,” Carhart recalls a piano teacher of his who once remarked, “Music isnt music unless we share it with others.” Would you agree with this statement? Why, or why not? Do you agree with Carharts description of a piano recital as a “confidence game”?
4. What, according to Luc, contributes to a pianos personal character? In what ways do modern production techniques sometimes diminish this character?
5. In describing his evolving friendship with Luc, Carhart writes, “Beyond our conversations about the pianos in the shop, certain things were tacitly understood. Luc and I virtually never asked about each others personal lives, although details occasionally came out as we talked.” How does this picture of a friendship compare with how most Americans understand the idea of friendship? Indeed, would you label his relationship with Luc a friendship, or something else?
6. After buying a Stingl baby grand piano for his tiny Paris apartment, Carhart decided to embark on a series of piano lessons (something he hasnt had since childhood.) How is Carharts attitude towards lessons different from when he was a child? What, according to the story, are some of the pleasures that re-discovering childhood passions can offer?
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