In Clarke's newest nonfiction on the French and francophiles (after A Year in the Merde), he offers actually 11 witty commandments for understanding the French. He tackles the stereotypical experiences tourists encounter, explaining why French waiters always ignore you, why everyone's always on strike or why Frenchmen are never wrong about anything. He explains the customs: how to decide when to kiss versus when to handshake, how to romance a French woman or how to be cuttingly rude while seeming polite, and how mispronouncing certain words (the noun "un baiser" means "to kiss"; the verb, "to screw") can get you in trouble (other expressions, like "je t'aime," can't be said often enough). Within Clarke's humorous anecdotes lie grains of seriousness. Why, for example, do the French constantly correct everyone's attempts to speak their language if they also want it to be accepted as a global language? And is it not significant that the French term for bedding someone, "conclure," translates as "to conclude"? In the end, this is an entertaining bon voyage present for anyone heading to France. (Jan.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
With a multitude of books about French culture on the market, is there a need for another? Clarke (A Year in the Merde, In the Merde for Love) evidently thinks so, and indeed he manages to add something new to the genre. The book presents a list of ten commandments (actually 11) for dealing with the French, illustrated by witty anecdotes and snarky opinions that betray the British author's love-hate relationship with his country of residence (Clarke lives in Paris). This book has something for everyone: tips on dining etiquette for the casual traveler, business negotiation advice, and help for the home buyer. A potentially handy list of phrases accompanies each chapter, although readers should be wary of the pronunciation guides, which seem primarily designed to make fun of the French language or of foreign attempts to speak it. Using these guides could result in the very misunderstandings Clarke describes in the rest of the book. For large public libraries where books about French culture circulate well.
Clarke renders the flavor of life in Paris impeccably: the endless strikes, the sadistic receptionists, the crooked schemes by which the wealthy and well-connected land low-rent apartments…Clarke's eye for detail is terrific.” Washington Post
“Call him the anti-Mayle. Stephen Clarke is acerbic, insulting, un-PC and mostly hilarious.” San Francisco Chronicle
“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