My need for books is insatiable, and books on/in Paris escalate it wildly. In conversation with Rooth in the comments of yesterday’s post, I recommended two books by John Baxter on Paris and it occurred to me that my Inner Francophile (different than my Inner French Girl, but I’m beginning to suspect I have multiple personality disorder or something) has persuaded me to read a bunch of really wonderful books set in Paris, so I decided to do a round-up of my favorites. You don’t know how hard it was not to include Madeline or Babar in this list.
There’s no better way to start than with the classic account of Paris in the 1920s than with Hemingway’s “A Moveable Feast.” Just be sure not to buy a ‘restored’ edition, because the grandson of Hemingway’s second wife all but rewrote the book to display his grandmother in a more flattering light. From a NYTimes piece on the edition, “The grandson has removed several sections of the book’s final chapter and replaced them with other writing of Hemingway’s that the grandson feels paints his grandma in a more sympathetic light. Ten other chapters that roused the grandson’s displeasure have been relegated to an appendix, thereby, according to the grandson, creating “a truer representation of the book my grandfather intended to publish.” Shady, shady business, so do yourself a favor and get an un-edited version.
I picked up my first Baxter, “The Most Beautiful Walk in the World”, as I made my way home from seeing Midnight in Paris by myself last year. I was eager to stoke the magical, wonderful feeling the movie left me with and the book just happened to be sitting on a table on the first floor of Barnes and Noble. What’s French for fate? The back cover spoke of Paris in the 1920s, Hemingway, Fitzgerald, falling in love with a Parisienne, a history of art. I was sold. I quickly moved on to another one of his books, “We’ll Always Have Paris,” and fell just as in love all over again.
Then there’s Peter Mayle, who I’m ashamed I only started reading recently when Boyfriend bought me “French Lessons” for Christmas. Like Baxter, his writing feels like he is talking directly to you as a dear old friend. Both writers are hilarious and witty and self-effacing. But if you’re looking for something less cheerful, pick anything from the bottom row. We have heartbreaking tales of Paris during the German occupation with Irene Nemirovsky’s “Suite Française,” (I’ve recommded this book to almost everyone I know) and emotional fictionalizations of Hadley and Ernest Hemingway’s courtship and marriage in “The Paris Wife.”
Of course, you could always curl up on your sofa and do a double feature of Amélie and Midnight in Paris, too. Which I fully plan on doing (for the second time this week, ahem. I call it “book research”) this weekend. I’m also excited to announce that in addition for French classes this winter, I’ve also signed up for a 1 day, 6-hour immersion course at the same school
because I’m crazy to get my feet wet. I didn’t do as poorly as I assumed on the placement exam, and have been put into a Basic level class, one step above Beginner, but below Intermediate. Pas mal!
Tomorrow I’m going apple and pumpkin picking! Any good fall recipes you guys can share? We always end up with 6lbs of apples.