The 3 New Books to Make You Love Paris RN
As Frank Sinatra famously sang: We love Paris in the springtime; we love Paris in the fall. We love Paris in the winter when it drizzles… and we love Paris in these books, where Paris sizzles. Whether you’re desperately looking to escape the events of this week in a little can-can culture, you’re the most fashionable person you know or you’re a complete Francophile, we have some exquisite examinations of the City of Light for you in this week’s book club. Pull up a chaise, and say au revoir to the everyday.
Five Nights in Paris, Paris at the End of the World, Hemingway’s Paris: A User’s Guide), and this book continues his reign as one of the city’s most devoted storytellers.
Functioning as a walking tour of the area, the book bills itself as a “narrative guidebook.” It tells the stories behind the storefronts and streets, making the reader feel as if she’s privy to a set of private, delicious secrets. It’s astounding how many stories fit into less than a square mile of Paris’s Left Bank, from the shop that let Marie Antoinette eat (gold-dusted) chocolate, to the workshop of the man who created the executioner’s tool that would later remove her head. The whole neighborhood revolves around the central point of its eponymous, mysterious medieval abbey.
The independent origins of the village have led to its status as a home of rebels, and the streets teem with the ghosts of Descartes, Sartre, Picasso and de Beauvoir, just a few of the multitudes of artists who partied, plotted and performed there. Saint-Germain-Des-Pres was an inspiration to them, and this book may be an inspiration to you to catch the next plane out. “It can’t be a coincidence,” Baxter writes, “that a man from Saint-Germain, Guy Debord, first proposed the theory of psychogeography: a sense of place so fundamental that it infuses emotion as powerfully as a drug.”
2. France: A Modern History from the Revolution to the War With Terror by Jonathan Fenby ($30): Speaking of the revolution, France has had its share of turmoil over the past couple of centuries: violence, uprisings and outright panic. In a century that almost makes the recent American election cycle seem staid, France of the 1800s was the site of Napoleon’s conquest and defeat, multiple coups, constantly changing presidents and even multiple different forms of attempted government. This odd history, which takes us all the way from 1815 to the current Fifth Republic, forms the basis of Fenby’s stroll through France’s past.
edited by Maggie Fergusson ($17): Okay, we’re cheating a little with this one. The 23 fantastic museums chronicled by a host of writers in this essay collection are from all over the world, not just France, but Paris holds its own with a sizeable representation. The Musée Rodin and the Musée de la Poupée both make an appearance, the only city in the book (besides New York) with more than one entry. Each entry, by a celebrated writer, is less a piece of art criticism than an attempt to create a memoir from a museum that had some sort of emotional connection to the author’s life.