Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Paris to the Moon

I've just finished Paris to the Moon, one of the best and loveliest collections of essays I've read in a long time. It's written by Adam Gopnik, who escaped with his wife and newborn to Paris for about five years in the late 1990s. I think that living abroad myself helps me to share his perspectives, even if things differ here (anesthesiologists don't go on strike when you're trying to have a baby, for example). Gopnik's experiences trying to fit in, trying to find a gym that lets him exercise more than once a week, trying to get past the "but why would you want to do it that way?!" are both very personal and also very mine (well, maybe not the gym, but a store that sells graham crackers, for instance).

It's also written by someone who clearly romanticizes Paris (not France, but Paris) in the same way I've grown up with images of Paris and other cities. He knows it through books and a kind of fairy tale life, rather than through the real thing. He remarks that some people travel to find the dream/image they already have of a place, and that those people get the better experience, as they're constantly searching and comparing...I think he's right.

1 comment:

Alan L. Gallagher said...


From your list of the Guardian's 1000 best novels, I have read about 375. I am impressed by how many I have NOT read. I need to think about books which should be on the list and which are not.


I love Paris, and have dreamed about it since a boy. I did spent a month in France, of which a good part was in Paris, "where Americans go when they die." We had a competition, I and dear friends from college, about who would get there first--I, "t," Pamela, Anna Grace, Nancy K, .... I won in one sense, because I got there first....but Pamela moved there to live...and Anna Grace has been there....about my darling "t," I don't know, as we haven't talked for years. And now Margaret has been there, and you....

When I was at Pitt, I met "t"--we were introduced because we both loved literature. I met her, on a blind date, at the Shenley Hotel in Oakland...she was wearing a garter on her leg to identify herself. We have a wonderful evening. She was working on a paper on James Weldon Johnson... by Monday, I was able to find for her project a first edition of GOD'S TROMBONES, autographed even, by JWJ.

Through her, I was introduced to a house, full of college girls, who became family and friends. Through them, I met Pamela. I met Anna Grace by accident, first in a Laundromat next to the Anthropology Department, and then in English Literature classes.

Pamela called me some years back...She had, she said, just spent the night walking the streets of Paris with the fellow she eventually married...a night of love, which she called to share, because she knew I would appreciate it.

With "t" I am as Dante was in the Purgatorio with Beatrice: Just the thought of her to this day makes me tremble.