The top book I'm reading this week is Paris Was Ours. I can't put it down and neither will you.
It won't tell you what to wear in Paris, though there's a chapter on 'Understanding Chic' by Natasha Fraser-Cavassoni but I haven't read it yet...
It won't tell you which patisseries to go to either...
It will tell you what it's like to be an ex-pat in Paris and feel lost. Editor Penelope Rowlands starts off the introduction with,
'I'm a PARISIAN of the recurrent, revolving door kind.'
Later she reveals, 'We hated Paris and loved it all at once, and when we headed back to New York (after a year) we did so reluctantly.'
32 writers contributed their experiences of living in Paris, so there's something for everyone here.
The first exerpt by Veronique Vienne, (a terrific art director I illustrated for at SELF Magazine) tells of her tres difficile return to live in Paris - she'd forgotten many French ways after years in New York. "Living in Paris is "priceless," but it will cost you."
Veronique created one of the best and earliest how-to books on 'French Style'. I wish someone would reprint it...
Alicia Drake (of The Beautiful Fall) writes of those grey, metalic Parisian skies - it's not always champagne and roses bien sur.
Patric Kuh, now an LA food critic and author,
Gives the best description I've read yet of what it's really like to work in a French restaurant kitchen. Put your knives back in the drawer. And I thought only women had a tough time over there...
Why are French women thin? Could it be the strict rules and boundaries French parents set up in childhood? Dessert comes at the end of dinner, never first. I loved 'Parenting French-Style' by Janine de Giovanni.
Valerie Steiker in 'Fledgling days' remembers spending a year in Paris at 23, with high expectations of reliving her mother's inspired year abroad at the same age. The pursuit of her mother's joie de vie eludes her. 'I tried to comfort myself by thinking of one of my mother's sayings for not letting things get to you - "Let it glide over the back of your indifference" - but it didn't work.' Her story is poignant and endearing...
David Lebovitz tells all in the last entry, 'Enfin.' And David Sedaris admits his addiction to books-on-tape in English early days in France.
These are the stories we wish we could tell, not the tourist tales. As Judith Thurman writes "one of the greatest charms of having lived in Paris is the Proustian glamour of being able to claim that one did so.”
If you read Paris Was Ours on the subway as I did, be aware your laughter may frighten the other passengers. Now I'm off to read 'Understanding Chic' Bonne reading!
BONJOUR PARIS WAS OURS!