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Paris to the Moon Paperback – September 11, 2001

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

In 1995 Gopnik was offered the plush assignment of writing the "Paris Journals" for the New Yorker. He spent five years in Paris with his wife, Martha, and son, Luke, writing dispatches now collected here along with previously unpublished journal entries. A self-described "comic-sentimental essayist," Gopnik chose the romance of Paris in its particulars as his subject. Gopnik falls in unabashed love with what he calls Paris's commonplace civilization--the cafés, the little shops, the ancient carousel in the park, and the small, intricate experiences that happen in such settings. But Paris can also be a difficult city to love, particularly its pompous and abstract official culture with its parallel paper universe. The tension between these two sides of Paris and the country's general brooding over the decline of French dominance in the face of globalization (haute couture, cooking, and sex, as well as the economy, are running deficits) form the subtexts for these finely wrought and witty essays. With his emphasis on the micro in the macro, Gopnik describes trying to get a Thanksgiving turkey delivered during a general strike and his struggle to find an apartment during a government scandal over favoritism in housing allocations. The essays alternate between reports of national and local events and accounts of expatriate family life, with an emphasis on "the trinity of late-century bourgeois obsessions: children and cooking and spectator sports, including the spectator sport of shopping." Gopnik describes some truly delicious moments, from the rites of Parisian haute couture, to the "occupation" of a local brasserie in protest of its purchase by a restaurant tycoon, to the birth of his daughter with the aid of a doctor in black jeans and a black silk shirt, open at the front. Gopnik makes terrific use of his status as an observer on the fringes of fashionable society to draw some deft comparisons between Paris and New York ("It is as if all American appliances dreamed of being cars while all French appliances dreamed of being telephones") and do some incisive philosophizing on the nature of both. This is masterful reportage with a winning infusion of intelligence, intimacy, and charm. --Lesley Reed --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

With his wife and infant son, New Yorker writer Gopnik finds an apartment and settles into the City of Light as a foreign correspondent. Setting aside its frustratingly tangled bureaucracy, he embraces Paris unconditionally. Nuances and subtleties like the fact that their Christmas-tree lights come in loops rather than strands are his delight, and he bring listeners such wonderful observations as, "In America all appliances want to be cars, in Paris they all want to be telephones." The author's observations are as much about the art of raising a family in Paris as they are about the city itself: we witness, for instance, the birth of his daughter in a French hospital by a doctor in a black silk shirt unbuttoned to the navel. Gopnik's reading is wry and bittersweet with an acerbic and witty delivery reminiscent of David Sedaris's. Listeners will feel as though they've been transported to a Parisian bistro and are sitting with Gopnik over cups of caf‚ au lait. Based on the Random hardcover (Forecasts, Sept. 25, 2000).

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Random House Trade Paperbacks; Reprint edition (September 11, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375758232
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375758232
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.8 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.1 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (202 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #32,238 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

121 of 138 people found the following review helpful By readernyc on October 20, 2000
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Adam Gopnik has provided me with some of my best laughs and best reads over the years in the New Yorker. His piece on the "Last Psychoanalysis" is my all time favorite essay. So, I ripped into this book and was delighted, engaged, dazzled by his skills to convey a country I adore but now realize I know only superficially. Hats off Gopnik for his: talent, this great travel book, and most of all: his ability to capture France in all its intricate nuances. This is an author not only to relish but to trust.
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30 of 31 people found the following review helpful By Kanaschwiiz on January 29, 2001
Format: Hardcover
Mr. Gopnik has a talent for moving from the personal to the universal and back... making the connection between his son's park playing habits and the inevitable French political corruption scandal du jour. As a Canadian living in France, what I appreciate most about this book is not just the great writing but the fact that Mr. Gopnik recognizes the sometimes infuriating things about "the French" (insofar as one can generalize) but loves them and their country (as much as they do) anyway. The only small weakness: it seems at times to be a collection of articles because he repeats himself (about the best walk in Paris, for example) a number of times on a number of things... maybe a bit more cohesive editing would solve this very minor flaw to a very great book.
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72 of 82 people found the following review helpful By Jussi Bjorling on October 22, 2000
Format: Hardcover
After reading this book, I want to do two things: 1) go to Paris, and 2) have lunch with Adam Gopnik. A surreal blend of travel literature, history, and even philosophy, _From Paris to the Moon_ will almost certainly contain anecdotes and observations unknown to even the most diehard Parisian-trivia buffs. For those of us who haven't been studying the city for a lifetime, Gopnik provides an accessible overview of his subject before delving into the nitty-gritty. Beautifully written and tremendously engaging.
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20 of 20 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 5, 2001
Format: Hardcover
Comparing Adam Gopnik's "Paris to the Moon" to any of Peter Mayle's books is like comparing Carl Jung to Deepak Chopra. Chopra offers "quick fixes" for an ailing soul, but Jung's intellectual and deeply insightful approach to what ails mankind has the power to transform the soul. Likewise, both Gopnik and Mayle write about France and French culture, but, unlike Mayle, Adam Gopnik offers a truly critical assessment of the culture in which he immersed himself. Gopnik's insights transcend Mayle's casual observations, and his candor obviously makes some people uncomfortable (truth often does). Compared to Gopnik, Mayle is "light reading": It's certainly enjoyable but doesn't have much substance; it offers little or no "food for thought." Gopnik's writing reflects his background (journalism/teaching), just as Mayle's reflects his (advertising). I personally prefer Gopnik's intellectualizing of la vie parisienne to Mayle's selling of Provence by the pound!
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28 of 30 people found the following review helpful By Paul F. Starrs on December 22, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Just as the world is divided into New York City haters and lovers, so are we divided over Paris. Adam Gopnik, his wife, and young son Luke decamped to Paris in 1995 to let Luke grow up, if only for a few years, in a great city besides New York, and this is their story. It's a family tale, or a variety of them, and the theme is always the City itself. And why not? If ever there was a city that deserves its own chroniclers, it's Paris. Gopnik does it right: He's got a genius for turning the personal into the general, and for bringing to fruition some terrific insights into French character (at least, where that intersects with Parisian character). "Trouble at the Tower" is without equal -- maybe only O'Henry, in his New York stories, could pull off something equal. If you loathe Paris, fine, buy another book. But if you're educable and recognize that cities and their residents can demonstrate the best and most contradictory sides of human society, then dig in. -- Incidentally, now back in New York, Gopnik's work remains the best reason to subscribe to the New Yorker; his essay on The Map of The City (November 2000) was a treasure. My only regret? That some of the favorite pieces he wrote in Paris weren't included (viz: The Virtual Bishop...).
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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Globe Trotter on April 25, 2006
Format: Paperback
Contrary to many of the reviews provided for this book, I have cherished this book as one of my favorite books on France. I lived in Tokyo, Japan as an expat for five years and felt an immediate kindred spirit with the author. I found my own personal experiences to be not that different from his own and related to many of his experiences on a deep, personal level. His gift of prosaic writing is a rare and wonderful treat within the travel essay genre, and I was delighted to be invited in to such an intimate and personal account of life in Paris. While most travel essay books are written by amateur writers, offering shallow accounts of brief stays in foreign lands, this book combines the rare writing talents of Adam Gopnik along with a fascinating, intimate portrait of Paris, a city that offers so much but which reveals so little for most of us who don't have the time to absorb and observe and experience what he was able to enjoy and write about for the rest of us.
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40 of 46 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on March 9, 2001
Format: Hardcover
This book is hilarious, erudite and amazingly enjoyable, making it the best piece of travel literature (but it's more *living* literature than travel literature, I think) I've ever read. It's full of insights on French culture -- cuisine, labor unions, childbirth and everything else -- and, more affectingly, thoughts on the bittersweet experience of watching a child grow and change.
Gopnik, a New Yorker (the magazine as well as the city) writer known for his wit, chronicles in this book his years of living in Paris with his wife and young son. Sure, they enjoy an enviably plush lifestyle, with nothing to do but...well, observe all day. But the observations are worth the envy. Who else could describe the music (or muzak) inside French department stores so perfectly? Who else could describe the plight of the French garcon in his favorite restaurant with such humor and sadness?
Most wonderful, though, is the tender portrait of Gopnik's growing young family. It reads like a love letter to his son and wife. He chronicles Luke's first experiences, and eventual assimilation, in Paris with the eye of a brilliant naturalist, the kind of eye parents always seem to have. Far from being indulgent, this tendency is charming and makes me want to get pregnant and expatriate immediately, just to get a whiff of what Gopnik has experienced.
This book reads like a set of essays. Like a set of essays in the New Yorker. I have read some of the preceeding (negative) reviews, and would like to emphasize that if you have never picked up a copy of the New Yorker, if you don't enjoy the New Yorker, etc., that you avoid this book. Bear in mind that Mr. Gopnik is a staff writer for the New Yorker, and he epitomizes their dry, observational, academic reference-laden prose style.
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