the original kStyle blog.

Tuesday, May 18, 2004

Americans in Paris

I wouldn’t say I’m a Francophile, but I find tales of Paris—specifically, of Americans in Paris—delightful. American lore is full of Parisian fantasy: from the classic Gene Kelly movie musical An American in Paris to the series finales of both Sex in the City and Friends, the American imagination is forever running off to Paris to find something the U. S. can’t offer her: style, perhaps, or romance, sensuality, even love.

For delicious tales of a real New Yorker’s time in Paris, buy yourself a copy of Paris to the Moon by Adam Gopnik. I say “buy” because you’ll doubtless want to read and reread passages, dog-earing favorite pages and highlighting exquisite turns of phrase. Gopnik’s beautiful, witty writing style stands up to the style and allure of the Celestial City. One moment you’ll be tasting the delights of bistros with your narrator, the next, laughing out loud about French perceptions of American fitness centers. Woven through the beauty of Paris is Gopnik’s touching relationship with his young son, Luke. It’s a book about family, love, living in a foreign land, and that peculiar interface between a New Yorker and his Parisian life.

I recently rented the film Le Divorce, drawn by the shining faces of Kate Hudson and Naomi Watts below a graphic of the Eiffel Tower and the French title. It’s an intriguing film, but fails to find a consistent tone. The plot seemed cobbled together and erratic, with half-developed characters bouncing in and out of the scenes. One minute it’s witty, the next bleak; it’s a confused little bit of cinema. I came to understand, however, that this movie is an adaptation of a novel of the same name by Diane Johnson. To its credit, the film Le Divorce made me want to read the book, which I assumed would smooth out the rough, confusing places in the film.

Skip the movie version and head straight for the book. It’s a perfect summer read (suitable for library check-out—you won’t need to buy your own). Although I knew where the plot was going, I couldn’t put this novel down. The characters are cleverly drawn, with a good eye towards human foibles, American and French. The plot sucks you in and the setting—well, the setting is incomparable.


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