Tuesday, July 12, 2011

The Greater Journey:Americans in Paris

David McCullough sketch by Carol Gillott Reading Greater Journey is easier than drawing David McCullough off a Charlie Rose interview,
The Greater Journey:Americans in Paris I'm longing to get my hands on The Greater Journey:Americans in Paris
The Greater Journey:Americans in Paris When it arrived (Thanks to Simon & Schuster) I was a bit overwhelmed by the size and scale of 'Journey'. This was not a book I could take on the subway. Then Penelope Rowland of Paris Was Ours, said she'd heard terrific things about a reading of the first chapter last summer and I plunged in. In fact I bought the audio version read by Edward Herrmann. It's been playing non-stop, perfect for both subway and Maine next week.

McCullough fools you a bit by beginning with a managable cast of characters on the first few pages: James Fenimore Cooper, Samuel Morse, Charles Sumner, Emma Willard, Oliver Wendel Holmes, John Singer Sargent, Mary Cassat, as they charge off in the 1830's for their first taste of Paris.
The Greater Journey:Americans in Paris He even takes you with them on the boatride over. You're drawn intimately into their lives via diary entries, conversations, quotes and anacdotes - who they met, where, when, even what they ate, what they read... They certainly read the Galignani 'Messenger' put out by Paris' first English bookstore, morning and evening editions. These adventurous Americans ate at Le Vefour in the Palais Royal gardens..

'The French seemed to take every meal in public, even breakfast, and whenever dining, showed not the slightest sign of hurry or impatience. It was as if they had nothing else to do but sit and chatter and savor what seemed to Americans absurdly small portions. Or sip their wine ever so slowly..'

Well that hasn't changed has it?

The Greater Journey:Americans in Paris 'There are few things bought with money that are more delightful than a French breakfast. If you take it in your room, it appears in the shape of two small vessels, one of coffee and one of hot milk, two kinds of bread, with a thin, printed slice of butter, and one or two of some thirty dishes from which you can choose, the latter flavored exquisitely enough to make one wish to be always at breakfast..."
'But then Paris was a continuing lesson in the enjoyment to be found in such simple unhurried occupations as a walk in a garden or watching children at play or just sitting observing the human cavalcade. One learned to take time to savor life, much as one took time to savor a good meal or a glass of wine. The French called it "l'"entente de la vie,' the harmony of life.'
The Greater Journey:Americans in Paris I could quote endlessly from The Greater Journey...
But walk they did more often than not, and were amazed by the thousands of Parisians doing the same...
I've yet to read a better description of Baron Haussmann's architectual creation of Paris as we know it today.
The Greater Journey:Americans in Paris McCullough weaves a rich tapestry with an ever mushrooming cast of characters, yet you're completely enthralled. He's a great story teller. You really care about these people. And so many of their experiences of Paris are ours even today.
Don't miss the video on the Amazon page.

He wanted to create a 'guidebook' that would answer his questions about these Americans in Paris, what they brought back and how it changed the US. It does not disappoint.


  1. Sounds to be absolutely fascinating!! I love a book like this!


    Art by Karena

  2. So many people are reading and blogging this book. Even though it's clearly designed to be of major interest and relevance to Americans, it sounds interesting to this non-American. Thanks for pointing out the videos on Amazon, I hadn't seen those. I think whilst the audio book would be interesting to listen to, you'd miss out on all the wonderful photos and illustrations of the book.

  3. Oh Carol, you have chosen a fine time to depart to Maine. I'd say that this week does not really offer up NYC at its best. Where is that promised air-clearing thunderstorm?

    I've got the DM book reserved at my wondrous library, and expect it to be in my hands soon.

    Still no drawing table or table easel here...I am sort of enjoying the open space that those treasures will eventually fill.

    Happy Bastille Day!

  4. This sounds wonderful. I was wondering about this book. I'll be looking for it at the bookstore tomorrow. Thanks!

  5. Looks like a wonderful book--I read about it, but haven't seen it. Enjoy your trip to Maine!

  6. Does David read it himself? He's a fantastic narrator. PBS did a recent program on some of the artists in post-war Paris - fascinating!

  7. Anonymous10:18 PM

    Oh, how interesting. Now I want to buy this book!

    Will you be back in town for Bastille Day? Shall we meet and chat over macaron? :D

  8. Edward Herrmann reads The Greater Journey quite wonderfully.
    Maybe it was enough for McCullough to write 555+ pages Jeanette.

    You can hear about 5 minutes at Audible.com
    That convinced me.

  9. I love David McCullough and your review!


  10. Great review! Sounds not-to-be-missed.

  11. Louise,

    This is such a 'visual' book

    It almost doesn't need illustrations.
    McCullouch is a master at painting vivid pictures of Parisian scenes with simply words.

  12. There's a free copy waiting for some lucky reader on the lobby bookshelf at the Hotel Villa Bertania in Florence, Italy:


  13. very excited to get a copy of my own - i almost bought it this summer back home but my suitcase would have gone over the weight limit!! waiting for my copy to arrive with my parents next month !!



  14. Bravo Carol! I so adore this post. I had the pleasure of hearing David McCullough speak about this at the 92nd Street Y. I still have to read this. I'm waiting eagerly for a library copy to become available. Thank you for spreading the word about this.

  15. Oh lucky you!
    It's a mountain of a book - not very handy if you like to read in bed.
    The audio is a keeper and weighs in at zero :)
    I left the link in the comments.
    Must add it to the post.
    I never read anything of his before.
    Now I want to read everything of his or should I say LISTEN! This guy writes BIG books!

    I'm catching the next train to Firenze! Wonderful.

    Karina, I'm in love with yr TURQUoISE nail polish.
    Perfection anywhere.

  16. Karen@PasGrande-Chose8:18 AM

    Thank you for yet another great book recommendation! Your review of it and your pictures capture so well l'entente de la vie.

  17. I definitely recommend his book about the building of the Brooklyn Bridge; it's fascinating, with a wonderful sense of the period.

  18. I agree - reading the book now and thoroughly enjoying it!

  19. Thank you Julie

    I was going for McCullough's Flood book,but the Brooklyn Bridge is much closer to home.

  20. Penelope Rowlands12:27 PM

    loved your post re McCullough.

    actually I heard him read the first chapter on the Vineyard at a fundraiser. (He has a house there) I thought it was amazing and also loved him, like everyone else.

    He's a real slice of americana in his own right!

    cheers & thanks again, P

    Penelope Rowlands

  21. I am SO definitely reading this, Carol. What a great review. Well, truth to tell, it was on my radar recently, but not it's buzzing for my attention! :)

    I'm putting this review on my Facebook page. Love it.

  22. David McCullough spoke at our library recently. Here's a link to the podcast if you're interested. It's also available on iTunes, I believe. Unfortunately, I missed him.


    Barbara Wolfe

  23. THANKS so much Barbara,
    The Philadelphia Public Library was my library growing up.
    These are wonderful podcasts.
    Enjoying them immensely!


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