Friday, January 4, 2013

A Cut Above

"Paris In Love, A Memoir" by Eloisa James   Random House   360 pages   $26

James and her husband, their 15 year old son and 10 year old daughter took a year's sabbatical to live in Paris.  Both of the parents are univeristy professors and can do this sort of thing.  The kids went to schools in Paris.

Each new chapter starts with a longer piece than the short communiques she issues throughout the rest of that chapter.  She admits to the fact that their brevity is contained to the fact that they were originally twitters or tweets (or whatever the hell they're called.)

I like this "here's a word picture to see in your mind" take on the various sights in Paris because to a great degree that's what Paris is all about.  Quick scenes, brief glimpses - a small Parisian dog contentedly lipping down a fragment of food under a cafe table.. drivers tootling the horns of their miniscule cars with Gallic vigor.  She points out an oddity  - Parisians stroll along the sidewalks without a care in the world, but put them in the driver's seat and all hell breaks loose. 

Best of all, she is pro-Paris.  I've read a great number of authors-who-went-to-Paris and then grizzled on and on about the things they didn't like about France and/or the French.  There is something beautiful or at the least, interesting, to American eyes on nearly every street, but you have to have a noticing eye to see them.  I've had similar experiences there -- we once landed on May 1st which is International Workers Day (or something) and everyone was carrying a small nosegay of Lily of the Valley (mougets) in honor of the day. 

Parisienne women are indeed smartly dressed and well put together.  From their expensive haircuts to the elaborately draped scarf around their necks, past the well-cut outfit -- until your eye falls on the shoes.  They are always terrible.  A French woman couldn't pick out a pair of decent-looking shoes if their hair was on fire.

Of the foods available for purchase, James nearly always swoons over the majority of them.  She is even tactful about restaurant dining.  The such-and-such made the trip there worthwhile, but the rest of the meal was lackluster would be a typical, kindly comment. 

If you'd like to see another, positive version of Paris, this is the book for you.  It certainly was for me. 

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