Rock & Roll Books

Summer reading

Rock & Roll Books

Little Money Street: In Search of Gypsies and Their Music in the South of France

by Fernanda Eberstadt

Alfred A. Knopf, 242 pp., $24.95

Ben Harper walks into a bar but is refused service because he's black. Deep South? Yep, deep south France – Perpignan – near the Spanish border. It's one of the interesting tidbits peppering Fernanda Eberstadt's voyeuristic Gypsy exploits in this Mediterranean town. The 40-ish scribe from Manhattan high society is poet Ogden Nash's granddaughter and has four novels to her name, plus bylines in The New Yorker, Vogue, New York Times Magazine, and Vanity Fair. Judging by the book's title and cover (a family photo with dad holding a guitar), one assumes an exploration of the Gypsies' mystical music-making follows. No luck. Eberstadt professes crazy love for Gypsy music, especially the band Tekameli, which she tracks for over a year until she meets lead vox Moïses, joining him and his clan in varied outings. Only some are musical; the tome's engine is the Gypsies' quotidian existence during the onslaught of modernity, not music. Eberstadt's colorful cockfight depiction seems at least as long as anything musical. Little Money Street is entertaining and insightful, despite casually used phrases like "impenitently insalubrious." Eberstadt's forté: presenting a vivid mise en scène of – for better or worse – the Gypsy core: family.

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