Paris to the Moon

Paris to the Moon

by Adam Gopnik


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Paris. The name alone conjures images of chestnut-lined boulevards, sidewalk cafés, breathtaking façades around every corner--in short, an exquisite romanticism that has captured the American imagination for as long as there have been Americans.

In 1995, Adam Gopnik, his wife, and their infant son left the familiar comforts and hassles of New York City for the urbane glamour of the City of Light. Gopnik is a longtime New Yorker writer, and the magazine has sent its writers to Paris for decades--but his was above all a personal pilgrimage to the place that had for so long been the undisputed capital of everything cultural and beautiful. It was also the opportunity to raise a child who would know what it was to romp in the Luxembourg Gardens, to enjoy a croque monsieur in a Left Bank café--a child (and perhaps a father, too) who would have a grasp of that Parisian sense of style we Americans find so elusive.

So, in the grand tradition of the American abroad, Gopnik walked the paths of the Tuileries, enjoyed philosophical discussions at his local bistro, wrote as violet twilight fell on the arrondissements. Of course, as readers of Gopnik's beloved and award-winning "Paris Journals" in The New Yorker know, there was also the matter of raising a child and carrying on with day-to-day, not-so-fabled life. Evenings with French intellectuals preceded middle-of-the-night baby feedings; afternoons were filled with trips to the Musée d'Orsay and pinball games; weekday leftovers were eaten while three-star chefs debated a "culinary crisis."

As Gopnik describes in this funny and tender book, the dual processes of navigating a foreign city and becoming a parent are not completely dissimilar journeys--both hold new routines, new languages, a new set of rules by which everyday life is lived. With singular wit and insight, Gopnik weaves the magical with the mundane in a wholly delightful, often hilarious look at what it was to be an American family man in Paris at the end of the twentieth century. "We went to Paris for a sentimental reeducation-I did anyway-even though the sentiments we were instructed in were not the ones we were expecting to learn, which I believe is why they call it an education."

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780375758232
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 09/11/2001
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 368
Sales rank: 190,707
Product dimensions: 5.18(w) x 7.97(h) x 0.78(d)

About the Author

Adam Gopnik has been writing for The New Yorker since 1986, and his work for the magazine has won the National Magazine Award for Essay and Criticism as well as the George Polk Award for Magazine Reporting. He broadcasts regularly for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, and is the author of the article on the culture of the United States in the last two editions of the Encyclopedia Britannica. From 1995 to 2000, Gopnik lived in Paris, where the newspaper Le Monde praised his "witty and Voltairean picture of French life" and the weekly magazine Le Point wrote, "It is impossible to resist delighting in the nuances of his articles, for the details concerning French culture that one discovers even when one is French oneself." He now lives in New York with his wife, Martha Parker, and their two children, Luke and Olivia.

Read an Excerpt

Not long after we moved to Paris, in the fall of 1995, my wife, Martha, and I saw, in the window of a shop on the rue Saint-Sulpice, a nineteenth-century engraving, done in the manner, though I'm now inclined to think not from the hand, of Daumier. It shows a train on its way from the Right Bank of Paris to the moon. The train has a steam locomotive and six cars, and it is chugging up a pretty steep track. The track is supported on two high, slender spires that seem to be anchored somewhere in the Fifth Arrondissement (you can see the Panthéon in silhouette nearby), and then the track just goes right up and touches the full moon up in the clouds. I suppose the two pillars are stronger than they look. The train is departing at twilight--presumably it's an overnight trip--and among the crowd on the ground below, only a couple of top-hatted bourgeois watch the lunar express go on its way with any interest, much less wonder. Everybody else in the crowd of thirteen or so people on the platform, mostly moms and dads and kids, are running around and making conversation and comforting children and buying tickets for the next trip and doing all the things people still do on station platforms in Paris. The device on the ticket window, like the title of the cartoon, reads: "A Railroad: From Paris to the Moon."

The cartoon is, in part, a satire on the stock market of the time and on railway share manipulations. ("Industry," the caption begins, "knows no more obstacles.") But the image cast its spell on us, at least, because it seemed to represent two notions, or romances, that had made us want to leave New York and come to Paris in the first place. One was the old nineteenth-century vision of Paris as the naturally modern place, the place where the future was going to happen as surely as it would happen in New York. If a train were going to run to the moon, that train would originate from the Gare du Nord, with Parisian kids getting worn out while they waited.

But the image represented another, more intense association, and that is the idea that there is, for some Americans anyway, a direct path between the sublunary city and a celestial state. Americans, Henry James wrote, "are too apt to think that Paris is the celestial city," and even if we don't quite think that, some of us do think of it as the place where tickets are sold for the train to get you there. (Ben Franklin thought this, and so did Gertrude Stein, and so did Henry Miller. It's a roomy idea.) If this notion is pretty obviously unreal, and even hair-raisingly naive, it has at least the excuse of not being original. When they die, Wilde wrote, all good Americans go to Paris. Some of us have always tried to get there early and beat the crowds.

I've wanted to live in Paris since I was eight. I had a lot of pictures of the place in my head and even a Parisian object, what I suppose I'd have to call an icon, in my bedroom. Sometime in the mid-sixties my mother, who has a flair for the odd, ready-made present, found--I suppose in an Air France office in Philadelphia--a life-size cardboard three-dimensional cutout of a Parisian policeman. He had on a blue uniform and red kepi and blue cape, and he wore a handlebar mustache and a smile. (The smile suggests how much Art, or at any rate Air France, improves on Life, or at any rate on Paris policemen.)

My younger brother and I called the policeman Pierre, and he kept watch over our room, which also had Beatle posters and a blindingly, numbingly, excruciatingly bright red shag rug. (I had been allowed to choose the color from a choice of swatches, but I have an inability to generalize and have always made bad, overbright guesses on curtains and carpets and, as it turned out, the shape of future events.) Although we had never gone anywhere interesting but New York, my older sister had already, on the basis of deep, illicit late-night reading of Jane Austen and Mary Poppins, claimed London, and I had been given Paris, partly as a consolation prize, partly because it interested me. (New York, I think, was an open city, to be divided between us, like Danzig. Our four younger brothers and sisters were given lesser principalities. We actually expected them to live in Philadelphia.)

My first images of Paris had come from the book adaptation of The Red Balloon, the wonderful Albert Lamorisse movie about a small boy in the Parisian neighborhood of Menilmontant who gets a magic, slightly overeager balloon, which follows him everywhere and is at last destroyed by evil boys with rocks. Curiously, it was neither a cozy nor a charming landscape. The Parisian grown-ups all treated Pascal, the boy, with a severity bordering on outright cruelty: His mother tosses the balloon right out of the Haussmannian apartment; the bus conductor shakes his head and finger and refuses to allow the balloon on the tram; the principal of the school locks him in a shed for bringing the balloon to class. The only genuine pleasure I recall that he finds in this unsmiling and rainy universe is when he leaves the balloon outside a tempting-looking bakery and goes in to buy a cake. The insouciance with which he does it--cake as a right, not a pleasure--impressed me a lot. A scowling gray universe relieved by pastry: This was my first impression of Paris, and of them all, it was not the farthest from the truth. To this set of images were added, soon after, the overbright streets of the Madeline books, covered with vines and the little girls neat in their rows, and black and white pictures of men in suits walking through the Palais Royale, taken from a Cartier-Bresson book on the coffee table.

Pierre, though, being made of cardboard, got pretty beat up, sharing a room with two young boys, or maybe he was just both smaller and more fragile than I recall. In any case, one summer evening my parents, in a completely atypical display of hygienic decisiveness, decided that he was too beat up to keep and that it was time for him to pass away, and they put him out on the Philadelphia street for the trashman to take away.

I wept all night. He would sit out with the trash cans and would not be there in the morning. (A little later I read about Captain Dreyfus and his degradation, and the two uniformed and mustachioed figures got mixed up, so perhaps he had been sent to supply intimations of the other, darker side of French life. They were certainly there to be intimated.) What made me sad just then was the new knowledge that things changed, and there was nothing you could do about it. In a way, that was a Parisian emotion too.

Table of Contents

The Winter Circus
Paris to the Moon3
Private Domain19
The Strike28
The Winter Circus, Christmas Journal 136
Distant Errors
The Rules of the Sport61
The Chill69
A Tale of Two Cafes78
Distant Errors, Christmas Journal 286
Papon's Paper Trail106
Trouble at the Tower123
Lessons from Things
Couture Shock129
The Crisis in French Cooking144
Barney in Paris166
Lessons from Things, Christmas Journal 3174
The Rookie196
A Machine to Draw the World
The World Cup, and After215
The Balzar Wars228
Alice in Paris239
A Machine to Draw the World, Christmas Journal 4253
A Handful of Cherries271
Like a King296
Angels Dining at the Ritz312
One Last Ride331
Reader's Guide339

What People are Saying About This

Francine Du Plessix Gray

The chronicle of an American writer's lifelong infatuation with Paris is also an extended meditation--in turn hilarious and deeply moving--on the threat of globalization, the art of parenting and the civilizing intimacy of family life. Whether he's writing about the singularity of the Papon trial, the glory of bistro cuisine, the wacky idiosyncrasies of French kindergartens, or the vexing bureaucracy of Parisian health clubs, Gopnik's insights are infused with a formidable cultural intelligence, and his prose is as pellucid as that of any essayist. A brilliant, exhilarating book.

John Updike

Adam Gopnik's avid intelligence and nimble pen found subjects to love in Paris and in the growth of his small American family there. A conscientious, scrupulously savvy American husband and father meets contemporary France, and fireworks result, lighting up not just the Eiffel Tower.

Malcolm Gladwell

Adam Gopnik is a dazzling talent--hilarious, winning, and deft--but the surprise of Paris to the Moon is its quiet, moral intelligence. This book begins as journalism and ends up as literature.

Jeffrey Toobin

Adam Gopnik's Paris to the Moon abounds in the sensuous delights of the city—the magical carousel in the Luxembourg Gardens, the tomato dessert at Arpege, even the exquisite awfulness of the new state library. But the even greater joys of this exquisite memoir are timeless and even placeless—the excitement of the journey, the confusion of an outsider, and, most of all, the love of a family."

Reading Group Guide

1. Questions for Dis cussion
1. Throughout Paris to the Moon, Adam Gopnik seems to be writing about small things—Christmas lights, fax machines, children’s stories—but he tries to find in them larger truths about French and American life. Can the shape of big things be found by studying small ones? Is it really possible to “see the world in a grain of sand”? What overlooked small things in our American life seem to resonate with larger meanings?

2. Although composed of separate essays, the book follows a thread toward a larger meaning: that the “commonplace civilization” of Paris is beautiful but its official culture is often oppressive. What kinds of evidence, small and large, does Gopnik collect to illustrate this idea? In “Papon’s Paper Trail,” how does this lighthearted observation turn serious? In the chapters about the Balzar wars, how are the author’s feelings finally resolved?

3. Can we find a similar distinction between “civilization” and “official culture” in America? Do you agree with the notion Gopnik alludes to in “Barney in Paris” that media culture is our official culture? Do you think his urge to “protect” his child from the “weather on CNN” in favor of the “civilization of the carousel” is admirable or foolish?

4. Although Paris to the Moon is not a novel, it has a novelistic shape, with characters we come to know. Are there “secret stories” in the book? Does Gopnik want us to sense something about the development of his feelings about his child? About his wife? Has the narrator changed or matured by the end? In what way are “all chords sounded” by the birth of a new child?

5. “The Rookie” is one of the most popular stories in the book. Why do you think this is so? The author seems to be saying that American life gives the “gift of loneliness”; do you agree? If you were away from home for a long time, what elements of American culture do you think you would miss?

6. Throughout the book, Gopnik compares France and America. What are the most frequent points of comparison? Where do you think he favors America, and where France? Which do you favor?

7. At the end of Paris to the Moon, when the family decides to return to America, Martha says, “In Paris we have a beautiful existence but not a full life, and in New York we have a full life but an unbeautiful existence.” The author has said that this distinction is central to his experience of being an expatriate. Do you think it’s a valid distinction? Given the choice, which would you prefer?

Further Reading
Books about Paris and France stretch out to the end of the horizon, and fill libraries. But the subcategory of books about Americans in Paris is smaller, and still choice. Of twentieth-century books, A. J. Liebling’s Between Meals:AnAppetiteForParis is pure gold, as is his The Road Back to Paris. Janet Flanner’s Paris Journals are collections of her letters from Paris for The NewYorker, and are full of condensed, stylized French history.Henry James’s A Little Tour in France is the classic literary guidebook, and James Thurber’s wonderful stories of his mishaps in France are included in MyWorld andWelcome to It and in The Thurber Carnival, particularly the stories “A Ride with Olympy” and “Memoirs of a Drudge.” Ernest Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast is probably the most famous twentieth-century Paris memoir, though it is more aboutAmericans than about Paris.
Novels about Americans in Paris make up an even longer and richer list. They include Henry James’s The American and The Ambassadors. Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises is the classic story of American expatriates in Paris in the 1920s, and in Irwin Shaw’s Collected Stories there is many a glimpse of American expatriates in the 1950s. F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “Babylon Revisited” is probably the saddest and most beautiful story about an American in Paris after the crash—and the fall.
Finally, George Gershwin’s great tone poem “An American in Paris,” which is heard often in the background of Paris to the Moon, has been recorded many times. The best version is Leonard Bernstein’s 1959 recording, made with the Columbia Symphony Orchestra; it is available on CD. Gershwin’s piece was the basis for a not-bad Gene Kelly movie directed by Vincente Minnelli, widely available on video.

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Paris to the Moon 3.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 44 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Being Parisian myself, and in US for 5 years it is a great pleasure to read about my hometown and its way of life, seen through the eyes of an outsider. It is a delight of truths about the city's synergie, about the french culture, and about a foreigner who wants to understand and integrate a new world, but will always be on the edge of it. Believe me, the challenges are incredibly similar whem you are a Parisian living in Boston, or New York!! This book gave me a lesson of humility about my culture and let me know that the same confusions, frustrations and joys are shared by anyone who has the chance to live in another culture.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The author is the kind of traveler who makes other American travelers cringe, and in just a few years, he has evidently become the kind of self-absorbed New Yorker who is unloved everywhere. Instead of embracing the experience of living in a new country, he is a rude guest, constantly commenting on his hosts' shortcomings. This is an irritatingly self-indulgent story on an old subject, done before by many other better writers. There is nothing new or original here. I cannot understand the reviews. As for the pretense of being a concerned parent wanting to get his child away from American culture...PLEASE...if he was tortured by his son's obsession with Barney, it's because he brought Barney there in his suitcase! This family eventually leaves France, commenting that they do not "live a full life" there...Not surprising, they live outside, and stay outside Parisian life. I kept hoping for some real contact with the French, some insight. Something other than an experience with a local shop keeper or taxi cab driver. But this is someone whose first actions in Paris included hooking up American cable in his apartment. He learns that you can get a wonderful apartment in just takes money and connections. He winds up with a beautiful place on the Left Bank... a typical expat experience... I have met these "journalists" before. They live in Paris, Rome, Beiruit, Bejing...yet somehow manage to never leave their comfort zone. How very boring.
Wanderluster More than 1 year ago
Paris to the Moon was only marginally enjoyable for me. Travel memoirs are my favorite genre, French/Parisian travel in particular, so I appreciated the book to that extent. But overall, the writing style and choice of topics left something to be desired. Gopnik writes in an irritatingly halting fashion that left me frustrated and wishing that he would just get to the point of his every sentence. Also, as someone who knows a bit of French from high school and college, I was able to understand his occasional use of the language, but I imagine his frequent failure to include translations would prove quite cumbersome for anyone unfamiliar with French. To be perfectly honest, the book was just flat out boring at points...maybe because I'm not all that interested in French soccer or politics. I did enjoy the culinary descriptions and first-hand accounts of European health care. But on a scale of one to ten, I'd give its page-turning factor a three.
Guest More than 1 year ago
As a college student I lived in Paris for a year and have been a frequent visitor to Paris before and after my year of study. I was hoping this book would take me back to my life that I long to return to. At times it does, but most of the time is spent reading about redundant gibberish. It was not worth reading and frequently skimmed through it hoping the writing would improve.
Guest More than 1 year ago
If you find Gopnik's toddler son as relentlessly fascinating as he apparently does, you might like this book. But if you're not an immediate family member, the 'ain't-my-kid-cute' stories will quickly tire you, as may Gopnik's tendency to pull forced French-American comparisons out of every last croissant crumb. While there are some good and pointed insights to be found, much of it comes off as a smug Manhattan boor holding forth, instead of a witty and knowledeable correspondent who learned to live with the French. And as a chronicle of someone who spent a whole five years in Paris, it's oddly insular and remote: one wonders why Gopnik's relations with Parisians never progressed past the most fleeting casual kind (a taxi driver, a waiter) that any one-time tourist could have had. Want a real feeling of being an American living in Paris - read Janet Flanner.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The most pretentious and self-aggrandizing essayist in the US takes on Paris. It's like mixing arsenic with hemlock. This is drivel from the first word to the last. Read Janet Flanner instead. THAT is the real McCoy, and this is French hogwash.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I have lived in Paris for the past ten years. I have lived in every district excluding maybe three, I, along with other American and British friends have worked in restaurants, bars, temp work, and in major corporations. Every neighborhood has a different atmosphere and every work place as well, Mr. Gopnik's book is a very typical New Yorker's view of the world, which is narrow minded. NY is not the center of the world and everything does not need to be compared it it, especially by a man who lived in the same area all five years of his stay and never lived or worked with French people. Sorry, not only is the book boring, with its chapters on a fax machine and fax paper, but the fatherhood thing was common as well and how rude to come install your self and critize a place that never need your opion. Paris is a little hop over the Atlantic, NOT the moon! To relish over the differences without end it maybe interesting for someone undertravelled, but as for the rest of us, it is relly a disappointment and I will try to get a refund at the boutique I purchased it from.
RidgewayGirl on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
There are travel memoirs that become classics. While they take place at a particular time, they either manage to grasp what is eternal about a place or they perfectly capture a lost version of the place they're writing about. Down and Out in Paris and London captures the eternal of being poor in a great place, I think, and A Moveable Feast is a snapshot of a great time that is gone and still mourned. Adam Gopnik's account of a American family living in Paris for five years falls into a second category; a book that is a snapshot of a time and a place, but one that is rapidly fading and which will be forgotten in a few more years. It's a very specific memoir, full of a young father's infatuation with his son, and it's the story of a specific family (well-to-do New Yorkers writing for The New Yorker) in a specific place (Paris, circa 1995). Which is not to say that this is not a highly readable book. It is. But I suspect that my enjoyment of it is based on the similarities of our experiences. I lived in Paris for a year and we started our family in a European country and watched our children being not altogether American. So much of what I liked about it were the parts where our experiences overlapped. Gopnik interviewed Bernard-Henri Levy; I had a crush on Levy when I lived in Paris (I was taken with the idea that a philosopher could be a sex-symbol). Gopnik's wife had their second child in Paris; I had my two children in Munich, and found Gopnik's experience to be similar to my own. My time in Paris occurred just a few years before Gopnik's, so that I recognized his version of Paris more readily than I do Paris of today. There are pieces of this book that are very, very good. The chapter on the trial and surrounding media storm of a French public official charged with war crimes was excellent and a brief segment on the French interviewee's astonishment over being called by fact-checkers was funny and thought-provoking. There is simply a lot of this book that is specific to Gopnik's own experiences and which doesn't expand to universality. His search for an American-style place to work out, for example, or the long story of his son's first crush at age five. And while the reader gets an painstaking account of the bedtime story Gopnik told his son, complete with his son's trenchant commentary, there is almost nothing about his wife or how the move affected their relationship. I loved this book, but I think that I loved it because of the memories it brought back, more than for the writing itself.
bnbookgirl on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Rather tedious read. There was not a whole lot to discuss at book club. I was looking forward to much better things from this memoir.
jiles2 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
While reading this book on the Subways of New York, I felt as if I knew Paris, even though I'd never visited. Once I finally made it there last summer, my comfort level was immense, and the beauty of the city was subtly awesome. This book prepared me for a visit to the great metropolis in ways which other books cannot.
michigantrumpet on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Articulate reflective compilation of articles written over five years from Pairs for the New Yorker Magazine. Gopnik brings an underlying warmth and affection for Parians, and adds a lovely self-awareness, whic allows him to discourse knowledgeably on the differences between life in New York and Paris. This was not a book to be gulped down in one sitting, but rather enjoyed as if each chapter (article) were a different course, or even meal. Enjoyed the discussion of couture fashion shows, soccer, a bureaucrat on trial for war crimes, and efforts to 'save' a favorite restaurant. 'The Rookie' was a personal favorite.
csmirl on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Always impressed by Adam Gopnik. My full review? here.Available at Teton County Library, call number 944.36 GOPNIK
rfewell on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Cute memoir of an American writer/father in Paris navigating life there, while raising a small child.
LireEnRoute on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Lovely memoir of an American family in Paris. Great to get a better understanding of parent's transition to France.
ladydzura on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Paris To the Moon isn't exactly a quick, easy read, as the stories it collects were originally printed as essays in The New Yorker and are wonderfully dense. Adam Gopnik moved with his wife to Paris shortly after their son was born, and stayed for the next five years, through the turn of the century and the birth of their daughter. Each chapter addresses its own topic, from finding an apartment to French politics, to high couture, to raising a son in a culture and surroundings in which his own parents are not entirely comfortable themselves.This book captivated me, and is partially responsible for rekindling my own urge to spend some serious time not only in the City of Lights, but in the rest of France. Gopnik is witty and eloquent and captures perfectly the charm that I imagine Paris to have, all while patiently exploring and navigating the many differences between his native culture and that of his adopted city.
WorldReader1111 More than 1 year ago
This one's a real gem, in my opinion. 'Moon' impressed me right from the start, with its precise, intelligent writing, which blends perceptive observation and meaningful insight with steady, wonderful bits of humor, all delivered with equally admirable prose and a rare sense of craft. Truly, I've not encountered many books that exhibited such sheer literary shine, and it enhanced the read from start to finish. Likewise, the author himself came off to me as a likeable, engaging narrator, injecting plenty of substance into the book's overt, slice-of-Parisian life aspect alone. Thus, 'Moon' is, I feel, a complete, polished work, worthy of a look by anyone remotely interested in France (or good storytelling). 'Moon' doesn't stop there, however, offering more than witty travel-writing. Threaded through the author's tales is another, deeper dimension, in which can be found a wealth of cultural contrasts, mature commentaries, human studies, and, ultimately, a surprising amount of plain, soft-spoken wisdom. I was repeatedly surprised by the oddly profound nuggets of truth that cropped up in Mr. Gopnik's reflections on his Parisian adventures, and I found myself learning a lot (and, more often than not, about things that had nothing to do with Paris). My sincere thanks goes out to this book's author, subjects, and publisher. I am grateful for, and have benefited from, your work. * * * Some notable quotes from 'Paris to the Moon': "'The school instructs,' he explained. 'But the family educates.'" -- p.47 "Language really does prevent signs or cultures from going universal. For all the endless articles in the papers and magazines about the force of globalization and international standardization, language divides and confuses people as effectively now as it ever has." -- p.97 "He had stumbled [...] on the essential formula that could be applied to almost every American spectacle: I don't like the O. J. Simpson trial, I like to _watch_ the O. J. Simpson trial; I don't like Geraldo Rivera, I like to _watch_ Geraldo Rivera. And most basic of all: I don't like television, I like to _watch_ television." -- p.173 "It was a reassertion of French glory, he said, and who is more glorious about France than he? The logic of nationalism always flows downhill, toward the gutter." -- p.227 "It is better to speak to the goldfish in their own language, and better still just to jump into the bowl and become a goldfish yourself, or try to. Without that immersion you feel a constant temptation to compare them with the nongoldfish you know back home, to say what they are like, to engage in the constant stilted game of comparison. In the end it is better just to say what goldfish do than to say what they are like, goldfish, like Parisians, in the end not being 'like' anything, but just busy _being_, like everything else." -- p.267 "I suppose we couldn't realize, or could realize but couldn't accept, that the logic of business is not a logic in that sense. It's not only a narrow consideration of profits and loses, but a larger logic of, well, appetite. To buy something is to assert oneself, and to sell it, for whatever reason, is to collaborate in one's own diminishment." -- p.279 "As generations of French revolutionaries have discovered, moral self-righteousness is a very good short-term substitute for pleasure, but it wears out." -- p.295
justine on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I loved this book so much!! It made me want to know this family and be in their Paris.
Replay on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
American guy living in Saint-Germain des Pres who eats escargots and smokes Gitanes. Kind of deja vu...
iammbb on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
An eminently readable series of essays about an ex-patriate American family of three in Paris. The French bureaucracy does not fare well but that's not surprising. Gopnik is genuinely fond of the Parisians and gives the American reader insight into those qualities which we tend to disparage.
aaronbaron on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Gopnik's meditations on France are insightful, funny, and humanistic. He peels away layers of shiny French surfaces to reveal an ethos both alien and attractive to our Americanisms. Features an outstanding story of a beloved local restaurant resisting conglomeration, as well as a striking analysis of the antipodes of French thought: astute observation of the particular versus methodical classification of the abstract.
rakerman on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A calm and gently amusing series of essays about life in Paris in the late 1990s. An American in Paris, Gopnik goes beyond the usual outsider's view, trying the more challenging task of being self-reflective as well. Chapters exploring the French way of thinking and living intermingle with thoughts and stories about raising his young son.
Hal_OBrien More than 1 year ago
The book certainly has its charms. As does Mr Gopnik. It's fun reading of his dilemmas regarding his kids, because they edge towards being more French as the years go by while they live in Paris, and while Gopnik likes the breadth that gives them, he also realizes they have to go back to the US eventually. It's interesting to watch the balancing act. One image that sticks with me from this book is how if the French had a magazine akin to "The New Yorker," (for whom Gopnik wrtites) they'd have theory-checkers rather than fact-checkers. This is because Gopnik thinks the French see facts as mutable depending on one's point-of-view, so what really matters is the consistency of one's theories. The ironic thing, of course, is that by this measure the George W. Bush Administration was far and away the most French in American history.
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