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Sunday, August 05, 2007

Paris to the Moon... rocket just crashed.

I finished "Slouching Towards Bethlehem" and started Adam Gopnik's "Paris to the Moon." To be sure, I might have not given this book a fair chance, but 37 pages through it I had to stop before I choked on the extreme usage of French and the seemingly endless comparisons between American ways and the all-powerful, all-superior French. The reason I stopped reading this is because Gopnik states early in the book that his family is no Francophile... really, it is a statement that dooms the entire narrative. I might be ready to read this book some other time; right now, however, is not the time.

Didion's fantastic collection of essays ended with passages that were so well-written perhaps that's the reason why I couldn't get into Gopnik's glorification of the French. Here's a passage from Didion that is rapidly climbing to the top of my favorite passages: "That was the year, my twenty-eight, when I was discovering that not all promises would be kept, that some things are in fact irrevocable and that it had counted after all, every evasion and every procrastination, every mistake, every word, all of it." And then... "From my office I could look across town to the weather signal on the Mutual of New York Building and the lights that alternately spelled out TIME and LIFE above Rockefeller Plaza; that pleased me obscurely, and so did walking uptown in the mauve eight o'clock of early summer evenings and looking at things, Lowestoft tureens in Fifty-seventh Street windows, people in evening clothes trying to get taxis, the trees just coming into full leaf, the lambent air, all the sweet promises of money and summer." Maybe this is the reason why I can't read about Paris... after reading such wonderful descriptions of New York. This last passage reminds me of one by F. Scott Fitzgerald that reads like a description of manic-depression: "And lastly from that period I remember riding in a taxi one afternoon between the very tall buildings under a mauve and rosy sky; I began to bawl because I had everything I wanted and I knew I would never be so happy again."

So, I am putting Gopnik's book aside, until I feel better prepared to face the "Paris-is-the-new-Jerusalem" prose he presents.

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At 2:09 PM, Blogger Imani said...

Hahaha, that's funny. I tried to read Gopnik's King of the Window or whatever it was called: a YA fantasy set in...Paris! It started out OK but I couldn't finish it because he was so intent on not-so-subtly including all these educational facts about Paris history and literature and Moliere was a ghost, and looked at what happened in Versailles in 180whatever and...ugh. I think I still have it around here somewhere...

He wouldn't just let the book inhabit the city. Very annoying.


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