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Paris, Paris: Journey into the City of Light Paperback – September 1, 2005


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Transatlantic Press (September 1, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0976925109
  • ISBN-13: 978-0976925101
  • Product Dimensions: 0.7 x 5.4 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (105 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #977,370 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

"… beautifully written and refreshingly original… makes us see [Paris] in a different light… recall[s] lost worlds in vieux Paris." -- David Armstrong, San Francisco Chronicle, September 2005

"… delightful and insightful essays meld history, atmosphere and observations on Paris places, Paris people and Paris phenomena." -- John Marshall, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, September 2005

"…. captures the sort of people and places missed by those jetting from starred bistros to hotels with showers." -- Dan Rubin, The Philadelphia Inquirer, October 2005

"…evoke[s] the soul and the substance of the city with a critic’s intelligence and a lover’s heart." -- Donald George, Global Travel Editor, Lonely Planet, 2005

"…gives fresh poetic insight into the city… a voyage into ‘the bends and recesses, the jagged edges, the secret interiors’." -- Dory Kornfeld, Departures Magazine, January-February 2006

From the Publisher

In his introduction, David Downie provides a tantalizing foretaste of this engaging, critically acclaimed book. "Paris is the kind of city butterfly catchers have trouble netting, tacking down and studying," he assures readers. "Like all great cities and yet unlike any other, Paris is alive and fluttering, it changes with the light, buffeted by Seine-basin breezes. This place called Paris is at once the city of literature and film, an imagined land, a distant view through shifting, misty lenses, the leftover tang of Jean-Paul Sartre’s cigarettes clinging to the mirrored walls of a Saint-Germain-des-Pres café, and the city where I and over two million others pay taxes, re-heel shoes, and shop for cabbages or cleaning fluids." Packed with detail, Downie’s essays "evoke the soul and the substance of the city with a critic’s intelligence and a lover’s heart" (Donald George, Global Travel Editor, Lonely Planet). Celebrated travel writer Jan Morris seems to agree, calling Paris, Paris "Perhaps the most evocative American book about Paris since A Movable Feast." Readers expecting the usual puffery will be disappointed. As noted author John Baxter points out, "Lifting the curtain (in some cases before the people inside expect it) is very much what this book is about… The chic Place de Vosges, for instance. What’s it really like to live in those 17th century hôtels particulièrs and to look down on the cafés under the colonnade where movie stars take coffee and fashion models prowl? Well, for some, not much fun, since many tenants inherited their homes generations back, and can’t or won’t renovate. Persuading one to invite him in, Downie describes being ‘led from floor to sagging floor by the pavilion’s unwashed, unshaved, ornery owner, who scowled out of the broken windowpanes and cursed his inheritance. You think it’s beautiful, he shouted over and over, you like the view? I hate it here. I hate it!’" Happily Downie’s abiding love for the French capital wins out, despite the occasional tongue-in-cheek jab. "[He] lives in Paris, like wine in a glass," comments prize-winning short story writer Mavis Gallant, who has called Paris home since 1950. "Paris, Paris is his quirky, personal, independent view of the city, its history and its people. Residents will recognize a place they can vouch for and not the clichés so frequently conjured up to match the legends. Visitors and newcomers are bound to find Paris, Paris reliable company as they discover the city’s beauties and pleasures and its problems too." Paris, Paris is that rare object nowadays: a book of literate travel essays illustrated with striking B&W photographs. Known for her photography work in the books of Sophia Loren, Marcella Hazan, Anne Willan and many other celebrities and cooks, Alison Harris is also a passionate chronicler in B&W of Paris’ streets. As Diane Johnson sees it, "Paris must be the most photographed place in the world, from Doisneau to Cartier-Bresson. These beautiful studies by Alison Harris extend that literature with a powerful formal talent. Her camera’s loving dissection of details that the busy traveler might not notice for himself, makes of this book a splendid object in itself, a sort of bibliophilic gem."

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Customer Reviews

I recently read this wonderful book and plan to re-read it before an upcoming trip to Paris.
Parisgirl
David Downies book, PARIS paris: Journey into the City of Light is one of the best I have ever read.
P. Lenny
Downie has a very lively and intelligent style, as well as a deliciously ironic sense of humor.
Nancy P. Wilson

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

195 of 197 people found the following review helpful By Nancy P. Wilson on October 21, 2005
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I own a large library of books about France and have probably read almost every major title that features Paris. David Downie's new book Paris, Paris is in a class all its own. It is the most superbly written book on Paris I have read. Downie has a very lively and intelligent style, as well as a deliciously ironic sense of humor. He is also a real journalist in his brave tenacity to "get the story." He takes us to places I would never otherwise have access to because I would be much too timid to make the approach. For instance, to penetrate the inner sancta of fortress-like Ile Saint Louis mansions, he tells how he systematically tested the outer doors and found a few to be always open. He marches right into luxurious courtyards, has a good look around, and describes what he sees in vivid prose. Or when researching the root of the expression "city of light," he heads right to the office of the chief engineer of Paris' municipal lighting department. I found myself very impressed with his approach towards his subject and with his straightforward, unselfconscious way of expressing himself.

Downie is an American who has lived in Paris for over twenty years; however I have to imagine that he has gotten to know the city better than most natives. His curiosity leads him to all Paris' corners, not just the obvious showy places we all know and love. He does take us to some of my favorite neighborhoods and shows us details I've never noticed before, but he also points out the off-beat and even really ugly spots from where we can get a different perspective altogether on this rich, multi-layered city.

The book has three parts: places, people and phenomena. Every chapter is both entertaining and informative. I ate the book up like a plate of many-colored macarons, savoring every flavor.
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47 of 47 people found the following review helpful By wendy johnson on May 30, 2006
Format: Paperback
David Downie is a magnificent writer. His exquisite prose reveals Paris as few other writers have. It is a must! As a native New Yorker and avid reader with eclectic tastes who has greatly enjoyed reading books on Paris and Parisians, for the more than 40 years I have lived here, Paris, Paris, has thoroughly delighted me. Every chapter is unexpected, original and yet finely tuned to reveal the universal truth or should one say truths of the City of Light. Downie writes with such extraordinary sensitivity and respect about this city, its history, its culture and most of all its people that he deserves a special place in the Pantheon of Americans who have found inspiration in their experience of the French capital. Downie demonstrates deep love of his subject matter but far from blind he also writes about the problems of Paris and the shortcomings of its population with compassion. More importantly perhaps he brings to the written page the kind of humanity that leaves his reader a better person for having taken the journey with him.

Wendy Johnson

A "Parisian" New Yorker
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30 of 31 people found the following review helpful By Jay Smith on August 14, 2005
Format: Paperback
Paris, Paris is a refreshing compilation of tales of a city I have visited many times. Each essay is packed with interesting tidbits about Paris neighborhoods and sites. Next to it's well written insight, the thing I would say to recommend this book is that I didn't want to skip through as I do most travel books. I particularly liked the piece on Pere-Lachaise, and the way I got to weave through 350 years of monuments in the time it took me to drink one cup of coffee.
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23 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Howard Gradet on March 27, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
David Downie's essays about Paris make for a ravishing reading experience. His topics are both expected and surprising: walking Paris at night; how the lighting of the city adds to the magic; cafe life; Pere Lachaise; Coco Chanel...for the lovers of Paris, the text is a dream. Almost. It's evident that these wonderful essays were written separately, although no individual copyrights or publication information is given, because there are too frequent overlaps from essay to essay, with information shared in one is repeated in another as if we'd never heard it before. Once is an oversight in editing; over and over again, it's just plain annoying.

The photography of Alison Harris, Mrs. Downie, deserves a better presentation: the pictures that head each essay seem evocative of the essay's topic, but the reproduction is poor and they're all too small to really enjoy. A glossy sampling of her photography would have helped the book immensely.

What also would have helped would be maps of the areas Downie is writing about.

Bottom line: 5 stars for the writing; 1 star for the presentation.
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By David@ParisParisTheBook.com on September 20, 2005
Format: Paperback
I found this wonderful review of "Paris, Paris: Journey into the City of Light" on the web. It is by noted author John Baxter.

What creaks and smells? Rattles and groans? Is misty, wind-swept and blisteringly hot, sometimes all in the same day? Can murmur seductively, but from time to time shriek, or moan in ecstasy? Is exasperatingly disinclined to admit one to intimacy, yet, just as it does, can transform itself with a swirl and a flash into a new creature, utterly unrecognisable?

Give up?

The answer is Paris - or at least the Paris on which David Downie lifts the curtain in his book PARIS, PARIS. JOURNEY INTO THE CITY OF LIGHT.

Lifting the curtain (in some cases before the people inside expect it) is very much what this book is about. While Downie tips a respectful nod to the city of cordon bleu cuisine, the Louvre and Orsay museums, the shops of the grands boulevards and the boutiques of his own quartier, the old Jewish ghetto of the Marais, he's more interested in what's happening behind those façades.

The chic Place de Vosges, for instance. What's it really like to live in those 17th century hotels particuliares and to look down on the cafes under the colonnade where movie stars take coffee and fashion models prowl? Well, for some, not much fun, since many tenants inherited their homes generations back, and can't or won't renovate. Persuading one to invite him in, Downie describes being "led from floor to sagging floor by the pavilion's unwashed, unshaved, ornery owner, who scowled out of the broken windowpanes and cursed his inheritance. `You think it's beautiful', he shouted over and over, `you like the view? I hate it here. I hate it!"

Downie's Paris differs fundamentally from the Paris glimpsed by the tourist.
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