Take a self-assured Brit with an eye for the ladies, drop him in the middle of Paris with a tenuous grasp of the language and you have Clarke's alter ego, Paul West, who combines the gaffes of Bridget Jones with the boldness of James Bond. Hired to oversee the creation of a French chain of British tearooms, Clarke, aka West, spends nine months-the equivalent of a French business year-stumbling his way through office politics a la francaise. Clarke's sharp eye for detail and relentless wit make even the most quotidian task seem surreal, from ordering a cup of coffee to picking up a loaf of bread at the boulangerie. Luck is by West's side as he moves into a stunning apartment (with his boss's attractive daughter), but he has to be careful where he steps, as he finds he "began to branch out from literal to metaphorical encounters of the turd kind." Between conspiring colleagues, numerous sexual escapades (he deems French porn "unsexy" since "Being French, they had to talk endlessly before they got down to action") and simply trying to order a normal-sized glass of beer, West quickly learns essential tricks to help him keep his head above the Seine. Originally self-published in Paris, Clarke's first book in a soon-to-be-series is funny and well-written enough to appeal to an audience beyond just Francophiles. Agent, Susanna Lea at Susanna Lea Associates. (May) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
"Clarke does for Paris what Peter Mayle did for Provence. Highly recommended."
The caustic tale of getting a French education the hard way. British journalist Clarke has camouflaged the particulars, but the gist of this work (originally self-published in France) is apparently drawn directly from his own experience. Here, "Paul West," his 27-year-old narrator, is hired by a French firm to open British tearooms in Paris, improbable as that sounds. And doomed, too, as Paul goes merrily about poking fun at France's farcically inefficient businesses, home to the most coddled workers in the universe and plagued by strikes seemingly every day. Paul is the object of some impressive snootery for his woeful French, though he soon learns that living in Paris requires much more than the right accent. The ville lumiere is for sharks; you mustn't worry about people liking you, "you've got to show them that you don't give a shit what they think." This isn't difficult when it comes to his co-workers, who "don't give a shit" either. Paul does, however, feel some loyalty to his boss, until he discovers that Jean-Marie is a marauding opportunist with a soupcon of his venality aimed at the new guy. (He tries to sell Paul a bijou cottage in Normandy, undeterred by the fact that a nuclear power station will be built next door.) With much time on his hands, thanks to the French lack of work ethic, Paul spends much of it in the comical pursuit of women. They bring some fresh air into the narrative, allowing Paul to laugh at himself for a change. Despite the country's economic and political self-absorption, he does fall for France, its style and especially its food. His affection radiates here, a comforting balance to the wicked mordancy. The publisher promises a second volume of PaulWest's adventures, which is good news. For Clarke's sake, let's hope he doesn't have to live it to write it. Author tour
From the Publisher
"Highly entertaining…Clarke renders the flavor of life in Paris impeccably."Washington Post
"Call him the anti-Mayle. Stephen Clarke is acerbic, insulting, un-PC and mostly hilarious."San Francisco Chronicle.
"The antidote to Peter Mayle, this 'almost-true memoir' will appeal equally to Francophobes and Francophiles."New York Post (4 stars)
"The book is laugh-out-loud hilarious. Like the best of British comedy, Merde is a comedy of errors…[with] great interlingual puns, a vivacious spirit and a playful attitude about the absurdities of a foreign culture."Rocky Mountain News
"Combines the gaffes of Bridget Jones with the boldness of James Bond… Clarke's sharp eye for detail and relentless wit make even the most quotidian task seem surreal."Publishers Weekly
New York Post (4 stars)
"The antidote to Peter Mayle, this 'almost-true memoir' will appeal equally to Francophobes and Francophiles."
San Francisco Chronicle
"Call him the anti-Mayle. Stephen Clarke is acerbic, insulting, un-PC and mostly hilarious."
"Highly entertaining … Clarke renders the flavor of life in Paris impeccably…[his] eye for detail is terrific."