|Director Wes Anderson at Deyrolle before the fire|
As we were about to leave, the clerk told us there was a premier étage and pointed to a stairway at the back of the shop. Not wanting to be rude, we climbed the steps expecting more of the same and were stunned by what we found—a grand suite of rooms full of hundreds of stuffed animals posed as though they had frozen in mid-action when our feet hit the top stair. Like many before us, we had discovered Deyrolle, the cabinet de curiosités.
Under normal circumstances, I might have found all the taxidermy somewhat appalling, but there was something so charming and playful about the way the animals were arranged, I fell in love with the place and every creature in the extraordinary menagerie. I couldn’t help thinking, “Wouldn’t it be wonderful if whoever owns this place could bring these animals to life when no one was around?”
That man became Adrien Durand, the hero of the paranormal romance novel my agent has out on submission. Since then I’ve returned to Deyrolle many times, and have taken friends and family to visit my favorite place in Paris. Sadly about three years ago a fire destroyed most of the second story and with it hundreds of animals lovingly collected over more than a century.
The fictional place I call La Maison d’Ermonie has taken on a life of its own in my imagination—a fantastical world that is more real to me than the place that inspired it. I shouldn’t have been surprised this week when the somewhat reconstructed Deyrolle no longer held the enchantment of the original, but I was. Surprised and disappointed. The animals were no longer posed playfully and the whimsy has been lost. Change is inevitable but I still mourn the loss of a grand dining room set for dinner with a guest list of zebras, a donkey, a lion, a water buffalo and a goat presided over be a magnificent stuffed horse I named Maurice.
Have you ever revisited an old haunt or a literary shrine only to find time had stolen its magic?