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.