“What truly makes Paris beautiful is the intermingling of the monumental and the personal, the abstract and the footsore particular, it and you. A city of vast and impersonal set piece architecture, it is also a city of small and intricate, improvised experience.”(8)
Although the book is somewhat dated (it was written during his stay between 1995-2000), I totally agree with Gopnik on the interaction of the architectural with he personal. This book is actually a collection of essays from the New Yorker, and some of the them are very insightful. I am interested in the subject matter: living in Paris, the expat life, culture clashes, etc. But the author’s style is rather long-winded and unnecessarily dense; some passages reminded me of esoteric literary criticism I used to have to read in college, not particularly suited to light observational journalism. At the first glimpse the book is sophisticated, but later uneven: some essays are excellent, heartfelt, incisive, clever while others are smug, condescending, boring. The book does not ultimately come together as a unified whole. Other than the pieces on food and fashion and the architecture, Gopnik’s prose was dead set on describing the political events of the time, and the events leading up to them. Gopnik told me about worker’s strikes, government nonsense, and current affairs (which, considering his soirée lasted from 1995 until 2000, is now ancient history) and barely anything of his Paris, which is really what I was looking for. I regret this book is an utterly boring scope of minute differences between New York and Paris life. There are many better books on Paris than this one.
338 pp. Random House. Trade Paper. [Read|Skim|Toss] [Buy|Borrow]