Biographer and critic Baxter serves as an inestimable guide to the boulevards, alleys, and streets of the City of Lights in this lovingly crafted and gorgeous memoir of his strolls in Paris. For Baxter, as for the flaneurs who have come before him, a walk in Paris is a succession of instants, any one of which can illuminate a lifetime; every stroll through the city reveals yet another element of the city. With great humor and affection, he recreates numerous walks through various sections, regaling us with tales of expatriate writers like Hemingway, Fitzgerald, and Joyce, who called the city their own. He guides us from the Luxembourg Gardens, whose shadows and light recall for him the story of Henri Désiré Landru, the murderer who arranged his initial meetings with his victims in the gardens, to the catacombs, the underground cemeteries that now function as sanitized tourist attractions. Acknowledging that his personal most beautiful walk is the one down his own street, the rue de l'Odeon, since stepping onto its sidewalks is to wade into literary history (the printer Nicholas Bonneville sheltered the pamphleteer Thomas Paine here while Paine composed The Rights of Man), he reminds readers that walking around Paris is an art and that one who walks in Paris writes a new history with each step. (June)
“A lovely book ... Full of unexpected pleasures ...Parisians claim that walking walking around Paris is an art form in itself, and Baxter proves them right.
“A man with a great appreciation of what makes Paris tick.”
“Fabulous . . . the perfect companion for anyone inspired to hop over to France after seeing Midnight in Paris”
Christian Science Monitor
“One of the smartest nonfiction titles for summer reading ... Baxter tracks both the city’s history and the many celebrated figures who have savored the art of walking in one of the world’s most beautiful capitals.”
“A splendid memoir ... Reading The Most Beautiful Walk in the World is the next best thing to a Paris vacation.”
“Anyone who loves Paris and loves to walk will feel this book was written just for them. ... Charming.”
Los Angeles Times
“We are the beneficiaries of John Baxter’s considerable, vivid love for the expatriate life in Paris. ... The Most Beautiful Walk in the World is as close as a reader can get to the feel of a languid spring walk along Baron Haussmann’s boulevards.”
Australian writer Baxter continues his entertaining series on Paris (Immoveable Feast: A Paris Christmas; We'll Always Have Paris: Sex and Love in the City of Light) with a book that is part history, part memoir, and part tour guide. Indeed, Baxter, who is also a film critic, has a second career conducting walking tours, and amusing anecdotes from his tours are interspersed among darker tales of Paris—the dank tunnels of the bone-filled catacombs, the serial murderer Henri Landru, and the street gangs, or Apaches, of the early 1900s. Sprinkled with stories of his many fellow expatriates, including Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald, and the occasional mouthwatering description of food, Baxter's elegant prose evokes a moody Paris, alive with jazz, still and gray in a snowstorm, revolutionary and subversive. The book concludes with a chapter on useful tips for the traveler. VERDICT Baxter has written a pleasant addition to the vast array of Parisian memoirs, suitable for large travel collections and die-hard Francophiles, especially those who enjoyed his earlier books on Paris.—Linda M. Kaufmann, Massachusetts Coll. of Liberal Arts Lib., North Adams
Memoirist, biographer and translator Baxter (Von Sternberg,2010, etc.) turns his sensuous walking tours of Paris into the written word, with gratifying results.
The author does what he does best—short chapters that explore some engaging nugget of Parisian culture or history, in a pace and voice that are both gentle. Goaded by a friend to put his voluminous knowledge of Paris to use as a walking-tour guide to literary and other artistic haunts, he accepted the challenge and found a calling. Baxter enjoys amusing and being amused, and he has pocketfuls of colorful background stories that create atmosphere. He is of the Henry Miller school—give him the boulevards known for sex and crime, food and drink, the opium dens and the absinthe bars, the art galleries selling salacious photographs—and he pulls it all off with an air of charm and calm. On his tours, the plans are open-ended; he digresses as needs be, perhaps into a story about how the lock to his house broke when he was about to leave for Christmas Eve at his relatives', or the curious interlude with a performance artist claiming to have known Marlene Dietrich. Readers can feel his elation at being out and about, experiencing the antique weather in the small passageways, cruising down Haussmann's sidewalks, dropping into cafés famous and obscure and exploring anything Hemingway. He is theflâneur's flâneur: "Visitors didn't wanttheirParis. They wantedmine. Plenty of time when they got home to read Flaubert or a history of the French Revolution. What they wanted now was to reach out and touch the living flesh—to devour and be devoured."
Walking through Paris with Baxter is really what bien-être is all about.