Synopses & Reviews
Paris is "the world capital of memory and desire," concludes one of the writers in this intimate and insightful collection of memoirs of the city. Living in Paris changed these writers forever.
In thirty-two personal essays--more than half of which are here published for the first time--the writers describe how they were seduced by Paris and then began to see things differently. They came to write, to cook, to find love, to study, to raise children, to escape, or to live the way it's done in French movies; they came from the United States, Canada, and England; from Iran, Iraq, and Cuba; and--a few--from other parts of France. And they stayed, not as tourists, but for a long time; some are still living there. They were outsiders who became insiders, who here share their observations and revelations. Some are well-known writers: Diane Johnson, David Sedaris, Judith Thurman, Joe Queenan, and Edmund White. Others may be lesser known but are no less passionate on the subject.
Together, their reflections add up to an unusually perceptive and multifaceted portrait of a city that is entrancing, at times exasperating, but always fascinating. They remind us that Paris belongs to everyone it has touched, and to each in a different way.
"In original and previously published essays, 32 diverse writers share both exciting and depressing Paris moments. Diane Johnson, evaluating French stereotypes, was surprised that French hostesses serve store-bought entrees. Jeremy Mercer was taken in by the owner of the famous bookstore Shakespeare & Co., living there rent-free (downstairs 'with the riffraff,' and Janine di Giovanni saw French mothers hit their children to enforce good manners. In three of the most substantial essays, Alicia Drake muses on the disconcerting ability of the French to accept human faults as she visits sites from which the Nazis, aided by French police, deported Jews to their deaths; Stacy Schiff finds that picking up the dry cleaning was less of a chore when done on ground Ben Franklin and John Adams trod before her; and Roxane Farmanfarmaian escaped revolutionary Iran for springtime in Paris. Many of the original pieces are wordy, mired in mundaneness, and lacking forceful editing by journalist Rowlands (A Dash of Daring: Carmel Snow and Her Life in Fashion, Arts and Letters), But overall this book should strike a chord in those harboring love/hate relationships with Paris and Parisians. (Feb.)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright PWyxz LLC)
About the Author
Penelope Rowlands was raised in London and New York and lived in Paris for many years. A journalist and critic, she has contributed to Vogue, the Wall Street Journal, Architectural Digest, Art and Auction, Metropolis, and the New York Times Magazine. Her most recent book is A Dash of Daring: Carmel Snow and Her Life in Fashion, Art, and Letters, a biography of the legendary editor-in-chief of Harper's Bazaar. She is also the author of three illustrated books.