In the last several months I've read three books by Americans who have lived, eaten, and adventured in Paris. They seem to have had a lot more fun than I did while I was there and tell marvelous stories.
|A bakery in my old neighborhood|
The protagonist (heroine) of Elaine Dundy's The Dud Avocado, Sally Jay Gorce, is strong, somewhat self-destructive, and hilarious. Her adventures are far from realistic, though apparently she is based on the author's own larger-than-life time in Paris. You hope for her to make it though and you feel her lurching from one precarious situation to the next, always off balance and always on the move. The heroine's thoughts and actions seem all the more remarkable when you consider the book was first published in 1958. This is a fun read and you don't need to remember too many characters or plot items to enjoy the language and tempo.
Sally Jay Gorce lives very differently in Paris than did Julia Child, whose memoir, My Life in France, (with Alex Prud'homme) also tells her fascinating story of Paris in the 1950s. I enjoyed meeting Julia, as she introduces herself, but also reading about the drafty windows, good meals with friends, and attitudes in Paris that reminded me of living there. Her story is one of hard work to accomplish something impressive. (I was grateful of her acknowledgement of the setbacks and discouraging moments.) I find her inspirational for her choice of a project, for the determination to stick to it for years and for the attitude of enjoyment and appreciation she brought to observing, eating, and writing.
In The Sweet Life in Paris, David Leibovitz recounts cultural encounters and plenty of eating in Paris. His stories are interspersed with recipes, few of which I've tried. His vignettes are entertaining but they aren't so unique if you've read Peter Mayle or David Sedaris' cross-cultural accounts. I liked Leibovitz for who he is, the rather neurotic chef who makes fun of himself well and eats even better. I prefer drooling over his blog entries, which introduce readers to restaurants and dessert shops in different cities worldwide.
|Skyline from my dear friend's apartment|
If you're missing Paris or looking for a cheaper alternative to a plane ticket (or time machine), you might enjoy any of the above. All of them will make you laugh and may even help you see Parisians or their food a little differently.