Her favorite scent is that of the chèvrefeuille (honeysuckle.) She cried at the end of La Traviata at the Opéra Bastille. Love in the Afternoon, by Billy Wilder, is her favourite film. She says Audrey Hepburn, Gary Cooper and Maurice Chevalier are the best trio one could ask for. Peak aesthetic, if you ask me.
I first "met" Mathilde Maire on Instagram. Her handle is @relationsheep and she has nearly twenty thousand followers. I messaged her out of the blue:
"I'm also 23 and I've worked in a library!" I said. "I live in Paris!"
I didn't expect a response. Then we bonded over our Catholic upbringings (like John Mulaney, we're both still upset that "and also with you" was changed to "and with your spirit") and the fact that walks in the cemetery are "Romantic as fuck." We love Betty Draper for her outfits and iciness.
Mathilde feels most calm in bed in her 1950s nightgown and robe, with a purring cat by her side, reading a book. When we venture outside of our respective apartments, we tend spend a lot of time at brocantes together.
RS: What do you look for at the brocante?
MM: I’m a big midcentury fan so anything from the 50s and 60s. I’m starting to collect vintage fashion magazines. I also look for true vintage clothes, tacky kitsch cat figurines, and vintage Penguin books. Some of my best finds include a 1950s nightgown and robe set (I can’t shut up about it), a lovely 1950s magazine holder that got me a lot of compliments from people at the brocante (and even in front of my apartment on my way back) and some nice vintage fur stoles with the heads & paws still attached (I love seeing the horror in people’s eyes when they look at them.)
RS: Where are you from by the way?
MM: I’m from Brittany (Bretagne pour les intimes) where we eat crêpes, salted butter and kouign amann and we say "crayon gris" instead of "crayon à papier" because we’re civilized people. I’ve been living in Paris for almost six years now.
RS: What cider brands should we stay away from?
MM: Stay away from the Loïc Raison and its weird range of ciders. The worst is the pink one. Why would you do that? Also I don’t care for "cidre doux." Always get "cidre brut" because otherwise you might as well drink apple juice. There are not a lot of choices at my local Franprix but I always get this breton cider called le cidre fermier Le Brun (there’s a bigouden on the bottle)
RS: How did your upbringing influence you?
MM: My parents are both big readers but also collectors so I guess it has rubbed off on me. My mother collects vintage haberdashery items and my father collects (or rather hoards) bandes dessinées. I, on the other hand, am buying too many books and decided to call myself a collector rather than acknowledge my lack of control.
RS: You work with a fair share of publishers and help them promote new releases, though.
MM: I’m a bookstagrammer, which is just a fancy way to say that I take pictures of books and post them on Instagram. Preferably with a nice, witty caption about the book itself or how much I suck at reading multiple books at the same time. Take your pick. I’ve been doing that for almost four years, and I started it is because I wanted to
- get back into reading for pleasure and not just for uni,
- keep track of my reading and
- show off my pretty editions.
RS: Tell us about your IG grid.
I wouldn’t call myself a great photographer. That being said, I do try to achieve a certain effect when taking a picture. I like my pictures to be on the minimalist side and give off a certain atmosphere of calmness and peace. My favorite model is my cat and he always looks so pleasantly chill. He’s my hero. Reading for me is that one time in your day when you can be truly alone and get lost in the words, so I guess I want to emulate that.
RS: You're currently putting together a book club for cat people?
MM: The goal is to read a book about cats (could be fiction, non fiction, poetry, graphic novels…) once a month or every other month and then discuss it. Just a nice online place for fellow cat lovers to gather and talk. It’s probably going to be called Bobby’s Book club, after my own cat.
RS: And it's no secret that you are obsessed with The Secret History by Donna Tartt.
MM: Ever since I read it in my first year of university. It has changed the way I read and ruined me for every other book. Damn you, Donna Tartt.
RS: So you can relate to Richard Papen?
MM: Definitely. I feel like a lot of people don’t want to admit that but come on, I tend to romanticize a lot of things and I am a slave to the aesthetic. Richard’s fatal flaw and mine are the same: "Does such a thing as “the fatal flaw,” that showy dark crack running down the middle of a life, exist outside literature? I used to think it didn’t. Now I think it does. And I think that mine is this: a morbid longing for the picturesque at all costs."
RS: You love "dark and messed up" books.
MM: The Collector by John Fowles, The Dumb House by John Burnside, The Magic Toyshop by Angela Carter, We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson, Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier… the list goes on.
RS: What are you doing with the bibliothèques de Paris right now?
I am currently doing a service civique (i.e. voluntary community service, but you get paid for it like you would an internship) for the bureau des bibliothèques et de la lecture, the department that supervises all the public libraries in Paris. I’m mostly helping them for the bibliothèques hors les murs, that is, pop up libraries outside on the street, on the quais de Seine, or in homeless shelters.
RS: So you want to be a librarian?
MM: I got to do a one month internship at a library to learn more about the job, which was the most interesting thing I had done in my life and has helped me decide to become a librarian. I like the idea of working surrounded by books yet still being in contact with the public and helping them. It’s a very rewarding job.
RS: Why are libraries essential?
MM: They are one of the last places when you can get free access to culture. This is a neutral space where everyone can get in without having to pay and read a book, listen to some music, watch a film, go on the Interne and even participate in many events. On top of that, you have passionate (yet underpaid…) people working there ready to help you. What's not to like?
"Like" Mathilde's books on Instagram. Thanks for letting me have such a rewarding friendsheep with you, Mathilde.