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Paris to the Moon Paperback – September 11, 2001
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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five years in Paris with his wife, Martha, and son, Luke, writing dispatches now collected here along with previously unpublished journal entries.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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Top Customer Reviews
The essay's themselves revolved around the author's domestic life in Paris, his difficulties getting an apartment, taking his son to the park, taking his son swimming, cooking. He intersperses these with observations on French and American culture. I found the later essays more personal, less analytical, but the writing was just as inviting and gifted as at first.
In fact there are two classic essays about Gopnik's efforts, along with a group of concerned citizens, to save their favourite restaurant - the Brasserie Balzac - from being taken over by a (French) conglomerate personified by its owner Jean-Paul Bucher. The manoeuvrings of the plotters, the reaction of the restaurant staff, and the final outwitting of all the above by Bucher are a joy to read.
Reading the book, at this remove and along with the Looming Tower, make me think about the fact that Gopnik's essays, witty, amusing, domestic were written at the same time as the threat from Al Queda was emerging, but being underestimated. It made me yearn somewhat for the nineties, when all that seemed to bother us was the personal troubles of the US president. Gopnik returned to New York for the millennium and I believe has a new(ish) book of essays coming out about his time there. I will definitely read them.
While I started out being put off by the whimsical content of the essays, in the end I became glad that Western society can create a space for such a talented writer to exercise his craft on such, apparently, slight topics. In reality of course, and Gopnik quotes Maupassant on this, the very familiarity of the tale leads to its being hugely personal and important.
Whenever I want to go back, I listen to or read this book again, a pleasure. Adam Gopnik is a fine writer who brings warmth and humor to his stories.