Monday, December 17, 2007

You-Are-There Reading

One of my favorite books is Ex Libris, a slim volume of essays by Anne Fadiman about the connection between readers and books. One of these essays talks about the thrill of what she calls "You-Are-There Reading." "The consummate You-Are-There experience requires us," she writes, "to see exactly what the author described, so that all we need to do to cross the eidetic threshold is to squint a little." (Eidetic? Okay, I had to look that one up too. It means "vivid" or "persistant.")

Well, I've been doing quite a bit of You-Are-There-Reading lately, actually beginning in the weeks before we arrived with Irene Nemirovsky's Suite Francaise. After we got here, I moved back in time to The Three Musketeers and Count of Monte Cristo and then forward again to Abundance, Sena Jeter Naslund's novel about Marie Antoinette,and further ahead to Susan Vreeland's Luncheon of the Boating Party which imagines the story behind the creation of Renoir's famous painting. I've just finished the second novel in Sandra Gulland's three-part fictionalized narrative of the life of Josephine, Napoleon's first wife.

Just so you know what a geek I am, I'll admit that I've taken to using a Paris map as a bookmark so I can check out just where all the action is taking place. And then of course, when I'm out and about by myself, I'm often tempted to tell some complete stranger, "Hey, do you know where we are? This is where D'Artagnan waited for Constance or where Renoir found his model." (Of course, I would have to stop and think how to say this in French which pretty much keeps me from making a complete fool of myself.) The other problem is that I'm never quite sure what is truth and what is fiction. Guess my next read should be something from a slightly different genre, maybe "Someone (But Not You)Really Was Here."

1 comment:

bijou said...

Sandra Gulland's Josephine trilogy is my favorite book(s)!!

PS your comment about the metro map made me laugh - do you know that there is a book called "Les Stations de Metro de Paris" ? Its published by the SNCF and tells the history of the name of each metro station - complete with quizzes in the back... I found it at a Gibert Jaune years ago.

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