Set in post-World War II Paris, but looking back to the beginnings of the modernist movement, Confessions of a Literary Archaeologist is the adventurous tale of Carlton Lake’s lifelong treasure hunt in building what has been called “unquestionably the finest collection of research materials on modern French literature and the arts anywhere outside Paris.” Drawing on his rich resources of unpublished manuscripts, the author unveils many hitherto unknown or little-known facts about the lives and works of such twentieth-century luminaries as Matisse, Ravel, Gertrude Stein, Cocteau, Valery, Paul Eluard, Alfred Jarry, Satie, Céline, Marie Laurencin, and H.-P. Roché (author of Jules et Jim). Lake also gives nostalgic glimpses of Baudelaire and Rimbaud as well as revealing a completely new view of Toulouse-Lautrec.
“Carlton Lake’s Confessions is a charming memoir. It says much about the discipline, the passion, and the sheer good luck that go into the formation of a great book and manuscript collection. It opens for the curious the not easily penetrated world of the French rare book trade, in both its upper and lower reaches. Finally, it adds a wealth of detail to our knowledge of Eluard, Cocteau, Valery, Toulouse-Lautrec, and a number of lesser-known figures—for example, Henri-Pierre Roché, the author of Jules et Jim. Those who love book-trade intrigue will have to have it. So will all those who can’t resist a good story.”
— Larry McMurtry