In French Like Moi, Carpenter guides us through the merry labyrinth of the everyday, one hilarious faux pas after another. Through it all, he keeps his eye on the central mystery of what makes the French French (and Midwesterners Midwestern).
|Publisher:||Travelers' Tales Guides, Incorporated|
|Product dimensions:||5.25(w) x 8.00(h) x (d)|
|Age Range:||16 Years|
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
From Chapter One: "Murders in the Rue Bobillot"
“To be honest,” Madame C replied in French, “the problem is the neighbors. They refuse to die.”
The comment sent my tea gurgling down the wrong pipe. While I hacked and wheezed, our hostess pinched her brow with concern. Her companion, Patricia, tendered a napkin, in case my insides came out.
“Ça va, Monsieur Carpenter?”
“Ça va,” I croaked, flapping my hand to keep her at bay. Repeating it seemed a good idea. “Ça va, ça va.”
Anne, who’d been off inspecting the kitchen, returned to the living room to pound me on the back. Madame C perched primly on the sofa, and Patricia added cubes of sugar to their tea. The mood was far from homicidal.
This kind of thing occurred with distressing frequency in Paris: I’d start a conversation on one topic only to find it veering into another. While I squinted at the butcher’s explanation about cutlets, the road would somehow fork off to plumbing. At the post office I’d be learning about air mail options, only to feel the clerk had hairpinned to the subject of Etruscan pottery. Swerves like this generally meant I’d misunderstood some crucial word, had careened off the conversational cliff, and had been airborne for an undetermined amount of time. So, when Madame C mentioned murder as her reason for selling the apartment, I recognized the floating sensation and braced for impact.
Where, I wondered during the fall, had I gone wrong? After all, the verb mourir had definitely whizzed by, calling to mind the deathiness of mortgages and mortuaries. And I was pretty sure she’d said something about neighbors. Of course, there’d been a slew of other words, too, some of them possibly significant. It’s always hard to tell which parts of a foreign language are the engines and axles, and which are the hood ornaments and air fresheners.
There was still a chance to land it. Sometimes, if you play along, the matter will sort itself out.
“So why do you suppose that is?” I said. “I mean, why is it the neighbors won’t…?” And here I made a rolling gesture with my hand, inviting Madame C to fill in the gap with some clarifying comment.
She shrugged: it was inexplicable. Monsieur and Madame Pottard were old and infirm, but they simply “refused.”
“You mean they refuse to…?” My hand swirled.
They refused to partir, she saidthat is, to “leave.”
“Like, to an old folks’ home?”
“No.” Her look went steely. “To the grave.”
Table of ContentsPart One: CAME
Murders in the Rue Bobillot
City of Light Bulbs
The Tab (Or: How to Get in Trouble Without Really Trying)
The General Assembly
Part Two: SAW
French Like Moi
The Acute and the Grave
Squirrel Pie and the Golden Derrière
Some Assembly Required
The Cartesian Method
Part Three: CONQUERED
War of the Worlds
Too Soon, Too Close