The oysters of what? .....Locmariaquer. A little village at the maw of the Gulf of the Morbihan on the coast of Brittany. A place where ""to think of life is to think of oysters...almost as if you could hear all those millions of them breathing when the tide is out."" ""Oyster dear to the gourmet,"" wrote Seneca, ""...all stomachs bless you!"" (which sounds rather like Auden in his later mood). This then is a book about the rugged art of ostreiculture, also one of a vanishing way of life, the old-style chantier artisans; especially it's a mise-en-scene for the gifted, gem setting impressionism of Eleanor Clark, whose other place-book, Rome and a Villa, is one of the delights of the decade. She's similar to Sybille Bedford or Mary McCarthy, but more exquisite. Being a femme savante, there's a bundle of erudition (scientific, historical, guidebookish), encompassing everything from Aristotle to the Second Empire and Coste's trail-blazing Voyage, and the U.S. Fish and Wild Life Service, or the Marennes ""greening"" process, or Breton romances, even Abelard and Heloise. These various nets often haul up interesting table-chat, e.g., oysters are hermaphroditic and ""prolific to the point of indecency,"" hence (as we've learned a few pages before) ""Casanova ate 50 every evening with his punch."" It would be odd to describe her ostreological hymn as a whale of a book; let's say the day by day observations of the white masses on the shore, the Maupassantish studies of the villager's sad, strong lives, and all the already mentioned inventories, produce a work of rare, if slightly ridiculous, intoxication.