If I had been blind and a Moslem and had lived at Marrakesh,"" says Maurice Rheims, ""I would have gotten my bread by telling stories."" In this chatty reminiscence of 35 years as a Paris commissaire-priseur (auctioneer and appraiser), Rheims tells lots of good stories. About his childhood--father in a World War I uniform, a constant concern with ""things"" (pleasanter than people, he feels). About his start as an auctioneer--""selling hundreds of moth-eaten sofas,"" but dreaming of museum masterpieces--and his Jewish heritage, including WW II imprisonment at Drancy. He shares the triumph of weaning a treasure away from a collector; compares mounting a successful auction to mounting a play (with several illustrations); and supplies anecdotes of artists and collectors from Bonnard and Duly to Rothschild, Berenson, and the Greek shipping magnates. Rheims marvels at today's prices and the anxiety over forgery (copying artworks, he notes, was once a respected craft). ""If people who love objects were sensible,"" he concludes, ""they would go 'musing' from one museum to another."" A tantalizing look at a world of glitter and closet drama.