So, how was your April in Paris? Nothing can compare with the real thing, but I hope it was good!
Shockingly, my month did not go as planned and I didn’t manage to finish any books set in Paris. However, books about Paris are always on my list and I will always be reading about the loveliest city, so I don’t feel like I’m missing out. Also, there are no Library Police.
I did squeeze in a movie though – Coco before Chanel (yes, it’s in French!) starring Audrey Tautou. It’s about Coco Chanel’s early life and the experiences that helped shaped both her artistic vision and her life choices. As shown in the movie (and I believe it is accurate), Coco was not an easy person. She was opinionated and bold (at a time when women were encouraged to be quiet and decorative), and demanded her own way – which sometimes seemed to shift without warning. She is also largely responsible for cutting women out of restrictive corsets and creating clothes that are elegant, timeless and comfortable with clean lines and little fuss. In addition, she created and directed her own company in a world run by men and she set her own course unapologetically.
Sadly, there is very little about Paris in the movie until the end (Coco grew up in the French countryside, left in an orphanage by her father along with her sister after their mother died) and only a little is shown about her growing business and fashion influence. I would have like to seen more about that and also seen something about her life in Paris during World War II – she took a German lover during the Occupation and there has been speculation that she collaborated with the Nazis. She is a complex, enigmatic figure (French history seems to have lots of them!) and I’d like to learn more about her.
Now it’s your turn – what did you read/watch/listen to this month and what did you think of it?
Are you someone who enjoys art? Or maybe you are one of those who feels like you don’t know much about art, but would be interested to learn more if your interest was piqued in just the right way. Consider yourself piqued.
I think you may enjoy taking a vicarious walk through one of the world’s most famous museums. Notwithstanding the hour of the day (past museum hours? no problem!) or the number of miles between you right now and the Louvre in Paris, you can do just that by reading the book Cruising Through the Louvre by David Prudhomme.
The book is a vehicle that, while telling a brief but entertaining story about human behavior in relation to art in graphic novel form, highlights just some of the 70,000 works of art in the Louvre. You can even catch your glimpse of them without having to pay admission (library cards are free, after all!) or navigate through any of the 8.8 million annual visitors. Although, if you like people-watching that may be the best part of all. Fortunately, Prudhomme recognizes that and manages to create characters arguably as interesting as the works of art they visit.
Sound like a good deal? Then I implore you to check this book out! When you read it please tell me what you think of the ending. It has a strange twist that I think lends itself to multiple interpretations.
With her groundbreaking bestseller Around My French Table , Dorie Greenspan changed the way we view French food. Now, in Baking Chez Moi , she explores the fascinating world of French desserts, bringing together a charmingly uncomplicated mix of contemporary recipes, including original creations based on traditional and regional specialties, and drawing on seasonal ingredients, market visits, and her travels throughout the country. Like the surprisingly easy chocolate loaf cake speckled with cubes of dark chocolate that have been melted, salted, and frozen, which she adapted from a French chef’s recipe, or the boozy, slow-roasted pineapple, a five-ingredient cinch that she got from her hairdresser, these recipes show the French knack for elegant simplicity. In fact, many are so radically easy that they defy our preconceptions: crackle-topped cream puffs, which are all the rage in Paris; custardy apple squares from Normandy; and an unbaked confection of corn flakes, dried cherries, almonds, and coconut that nearly every French woman knows.
Whether it’s classic lemon-glazed madeleines, a silky caramel tart, or “Les Whoopie Pies,” Dorie puts her own creative spin on each dish, guiding us with the friendly, reassuring directions that have won her legions of ardent fans. (description from publisher)
And you may be wondering how to commemorate this joyeux July 14th. As all foodies know, no one takes more delight in their cuisine than the French. Why not check out Joanne Harris’ Chocolat? (in book or dvd format), a fable about the magical quality of chocolate. The film version is a sensual celebration of all forms of chocolate (and Johnny Depp).
A paperback copy of A Year in Provence by Peter Mayle was my constant companion on a trip through the Northeast, and became a scrapbook of sorts (stuffed with pamphlets, snack wrapper bookmarks and smeared with chocolate ice cream eaten in downtown Bar Harbor). Mayle loves his food so much, it’s impossible to feel guilty if you eat while reading his book. The deep and abiding love of food and drink formed a bond with his Provencal neighbors – though their actions were often perplexing to him.
From Paris to the Moon is a more cerebral collection of essays, about a year in which Adam Gopnik moves from New York to Paris to immerse his family in the French language and way of life. He dissects cafe culture and the “crisis in French cuisine,” among many other things; what could be dry is instead a personal and fascinating insider’s view of an American in Paris.