Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Paris Was Ours, edited by Penelope Rowlands

I already love essays, but essays about Paris? Forget it. Roll up the rugs and lock the door behind you because you won't be getting anything more from me until I come back down from my reading cloud. Paris, in all its breath-taking loveliness and historical glory, is the coolest city I've ever been to. And when I can't be there, the next best thing is reading about it from others who have been and come away with the same indelible affection for the place.

These essays are of varying length and can be read in any order. Some are better than others, as one might imagine coming from such a diverse group of writers, but they are all equally enthusiastic about their Paris experience. This is a lovely piece of escapist non-fiction.

(back cover)
Paris is "the world capitol of memory and desire," concludes one of the writers in this intimate and insightful collection of memoirs of the city. Living in Paris changed these writers forever. In thirty-two personal essays - more than half of which are here published for the first time - the writers describe how they were seduced by Paris and then began to see things differently. They came to write, to cook, to find love, to study, to raise children, to escape, or to live the way it's done in French movies; they came from the United States, Canada, and England; from Iran, Iraq, and Cuba; and - a few - from other parts of France. And they stayed, not as tourists, but for a long time; some are still living there. They were outsiders who became insiders, who here share their observations and revelations. Some are well-known writers: Diane Johnson, David Sedaris, Judith Thurman, Joe Queenan, and Edmund White. Others may be lesser known but are no less passionate on the subject. Together, their reflections add up to an unusually perceptive and multifaceted portrait of a city that is entrancing, at times exasperating, but always fascinating. They remind us that Paris belongs to everyone it has touched, and to each in a different way. 

2 comments:

Daisy said...

I've never been there. Sounds lovely!

Trish said...

Fortunately, there is a lot of literature about and from Paris to keep us readers busy for a while.