Saturday, April 16, 2011

The Sweet Life In Paris

By the title, some of you may have surmised that the reason for my absence of posts on this blog is because I've been enjoying the sweet life in Paris. La Dolce Vita, so to speak. Well, if that is what you surmised, then you surmised incorrectly because as you see, I don't even know what the French term for "sweet life" is and thus had to resort to Italian. No, mi vida loca has just kept me from really writing much, although it hasn't kept me from drinking wine.

The last chapter of David Lebovitz' entertaining work, The Sweet Life in Paris - Delicious Adventures in the World's Most Glorious - and Perplexing - City, begins as follows:

The image people have of my life in Paris is that each fabulous day begins with a trip to the bakery for my morning croissant, which I eat while catching up with the current events by reading Le Monde at my corner cafe. (The beret is optional.) Then I spend the rest of my day discussing Sartre over in the Latin Quarter or strolling the halls of the Louvre with a sketchpad, ending with my sunset ascent of the Eiffel Tower before heading to one of the Michelin three-star restaurants for an extravagant dinner. Later, after toasting the day with glasses of Cognac in the lounge at the George V, I stroll along the Seine until I'm finally home, when I tuck myself in bed to rest up for the next day.

In a more conventional style, perhaps that paragraph would come at the beginning of the first chapter of the book, sort of a hint that perhaps life in Paris is not what many would picture. But it is well-placed at the end, that the reader may nod and smile in agreement and appreciate Mr. Lebovitz' amusing account of real life in the city of lights, with a focus on the food life.

And amusing it is. The book is a collection of short, easily digestible morsels of one aspect of his experience, much of which will indeed make you smile if not laugh out loud at the absurdities of life in Paris and his encounters with the natives. Combined with these accounts are tempting recipes. I have to say that I am not much of a cook so I didn't try any of them but they do look tasty and they don't look that difficult, either. So if you like to read and you like to cook, this book puts both into one for you.

His observations of the Paris life made me wonder what a Parisian writer would say about living among Americans - of course it would make a big difference just where in America the person lived. Same would hold true of France - not everywhere is like Paris but if you ask the average person to name a city in France, chances are Paris will be the answer. Those of us who have never been (like me) and maybe many who have also have the image of glamour, excitement, fine food, etc. when we hear the name.

David Lebovitz' recount of his own life definitely minimizes the romanticism but I have to say, it sounds like he's a happy guy. I had no trouble visualizing the days he writes about and the people in them and the picture I got is of a place with plenty of character, most of it good.

I'm not going to talk about the details because you just have to read it yourself (which goes very quickly) - like how doctors are different over there, how people like to crowd and push and shove (I thought Costco was bad but Paris is something else), how not to get your words mixed up, etc. Every chapter covers a different slice of life and every chapter's a great read. I give it an unqualified thumbs up.

Why after such a long absence do I finally post, and the post isn't even about wine but about a book, you might well ask. Well, I was contacted by the publisher asking if I would like a review copy. It sounded interesting so I said sure, please send me one and I promise to write a review. I also said I hardly post here and don't get a whole lot of traffic so if they didn't want to waste a book and postage on me I understood. But I guess they were okay with wasting a book and postage on me so they sent it. I read it. I liked it. I can highly recommend it - you will be entertained and for a lot less than the cost of experiencing the real thing. You may want to do that next, though.

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