Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Americans in Paris: With Apologies to Adam Gopnik

For many months now, I've slowly been working my way through Adam Gopnik's wonderful literary anthology, Americans in Paris. The book begins with extracts from the letters of Benjamin Franklin, written when the nation now known as the U.S.A. was only an idea, and continues up to the 1960s. Gopnik has included the work of many greats of American letters -- Mark Twain, Henry James, Ernest Hemingway, Jack Kerouac, for example -- as well as those of historical figures not known for their writing such as P.T. Barnum, Isadora Duncan, Charles Lindbergh, and Diana Vreeland. It's not the kind of book that you'll plow through in a week at the beach or in front of the fire when you're snowed in. Rather, it's one to be savored in bits and pieces, always with time for looping back and re-reading. And Gopnik's introduction itself is pitch perfect. He's captured the joy and optimism but also the regret and nostalgia. Somehow Paris is always both just as we imagined it and somehow a smaller shadow of its former self.

Over the next month, I'll be sharing with you some snippets from the anthology, paired with photos of the places in question. I've left out some of the choicest bits that simply don't lend themselves to this format. Think of it as a taste of what Gopnik's book has to offer. And then go out and get yourself a copy. This is a book that you'll want to own.

Stay tuned.

5 comments:

debbie in toronto said...

Anne...you've never steered me wrong yet with a book suggestion...I'm adding this to my "Paris" library...

Starman said...

I don't buy books any more. But i will get it from my library.

Madeleine said...

I enjoyed the excerpts and your posting them made me think... I've been to Paris three times, the third being last month. In between the second and third, I read a lot about French history and that knowledge gave my last trip so much more depth and significance that I wondered if you might enjoy some of the books I've loved. Maybe you've read them but, if not, consider three of my favorites, all by Stanley Loomis - Du Barry, Paris in the Terror and The Fatal Friendship. Seeing the places I'd read about was incredible. I'm painfully of jealous of your opportunity to be Just Another American in Paris, but being the magnanimous type, I'm going to put my pettiness aside and hope you read the books and get even more out of your opportunity to live there!

Anne said...

Madeleine: Thanks for the suggestions. No matter how many books I read about French history, the list of books to be read just grows longer. If you're interested in my recommendations, click on "books" under the header "labels" on the right hand side of the home page.

Madeleine said...

Thanks. I'm going with Is Paris Burning first. Looking forward to it!

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