Paris to the Moon Paperback – Mar 27 2001
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Commissioned by The New Yorker, Adam Gopnik spent five years in Paris with his wife, Martha and son, Luke, writing dispatches now collected here along with previously unpublished journal entries in Paris to the Moon.
A self-described "comic-sentimental essayist", Gopnik chose the romance of Paris in its particulars as his subject. Gopnik falls in unabashed love with what he calls Paris's commonplace civilisation--the cafés, the little shops, the ancient carousel in the park and the small, intricate experiences that happen in such settings. But Paris can also be a difficult city to love, particularly its pompous and abstract official culture with its parallel paper universe. The tension between these two sides of Paris and the country's general brooding over the decline of French dominance in the face of globalisation (haute couture, cooking and sex, as well as the economy, are running deficits) form the subtexts for these finely wrought and witty essays.
With his emphasis on the micro in the macro, Gopnik describes trying to get a Thanksgiving turkey delivered during a general strike and his struggle to find an apartment during a government scandal over favouritism in housing allocations. The essays alternate between reports of national and local events and accounts of expatriate family life, with an emphasis on "the trinity of late-century bourgeois obsessions: children and cooking and spectator sports, including the spectator sport of shopping." Gopnik describes some truly delicious moments, from the rites of Parisian haute couture, to the "occupation" of a local brasserie in protest of its purchase by a restaurant tycoon, to the birth of his daughter with the aid of a doctor in black jeans and a black silk shirt, open at the front. Gopnik makes terrific use of his status as an observer on the fringes of fashionable society to draw some deft comparisons between Paris and New York ("It is as if all American appliances dreamed of being cars while all French appliances dreamed of being telephones") and do some incisive philosophising on the nature of both. This is masterful reportage with a winning infusion of intelligence, intimacy and charm. --Lesley Reed
From Publishers Weekly
With his wife and infant son, New Yorker writer Gopnik finds an apartment and settles into the City of Light as a foreign correspondent. Setting aside its frustratingly tangled bureaucracy, he embraces Paris unconditionally. Nuances and subtleties like the fact that their Christmas-tree lights come in loops rather than strands are his delight, and he bring listeners such wonderful observations as, "In America all appliances want to be cars, in Paris they all want to be telephones." The author's observations are as much about the art of raising a family in Paris as they are about the city itself: we witness, for instance, the birth of his daughter in a French hospital by a doctor in a black silk shirt unbuttoned to the navel. Gopnik's reading is wry and bittersweet with an acerbic and witty delivery reminiscent of David Sedaris's. Listeners will feel as though they've been transported to a Parisian bistro and are sitting with Gopnik over cups of caf au lait. Based on the Random hardcover (Forecasts, Sept. 25, 2000).
Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title. See all Product Description
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Not long after we moved to Paris, in the fall of 1995, my wife, Martha, and I saw, in the window of a shop on the rue Saint-Sulpice, a nineteenth-century engraving, done in the manner, though I'm now inclined to think not from the hand, of Daumier. Read the first page
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Adam Gopnik writes this book in a style of short stories or essays that weave into one great book. He offers a well thought out idea of what must be said from an American in Paris. His comparisons are very real, some light-hearted, some blatantly profound. Gopnik shows his vulnerability many times as a fish out of water, but he tries harder than the average American to blend into his surroundings and take on some of the easier characteristics of becomming French like developing a fondness for a life of profound beauty, a taste for well prepared food, relaxing into the dining experience of the cafes and brasseries, showing his son the art of the carousel rather than the brainlessness of "Barney", and eventually creating another child born a Parisian.
The best chapters in this book are the ones that Gopnik writes about his son discovering himself in Paris. His favorite food becomes croissants rather than ketchup fast food burgers, his puppy love with a young French girl in the Ritz pool, how he would rather play at the Luxembourg Gardens than with a television and most importantly how he adapts to becomming a childish little Frenchman. With this said the one chapter I would skip is "The Rookie" a portion in the book that somehow just dosen't fit. From the elegance of the French life back to the world of baseball? Personally I would have just left the entire chapter with an editor and walked away.
Gopnik shows how well he has adapted to French life in the portions of the book that he dedicates to the cafe Balzar.Read more ›
Gopnik is a fine writer and observer it's always gratifying to read well-written expatriate tales. (I lived in Asia for years and am still looking for competent contemporary expat memoirs of Southeast Asia). Some of what he writes is engaging--he takes you inside the national library, demystifies the Ritz, describes everyday rituals that become something else overseas. Some is mundane--if you're not a parent or you loathe (your) children, your eyes might glaze over reading about his son and daughter and wife's pregnancy. Some is excruciatingly precious--the occupation of a restaurant (such revolutionary, soul-shaking activism!), the explanation of how super-expensive French restaurant cooking really is about peasant roots, one person's outrage over a perceived misuse of curry powder.
In short, my reactions to Gopnik's book were pretty much my reactions to Paris. It's hard to tell sometimes if Gopnik is just reporting or really finds all he writes about momentous, but it's refreshing to read contemporary accounts of urban life that aren't layered in irony or polemics.
A good companion piece is Lawrence Osborne's "Paris Dreambook", a fantastical account of Paris's underworld that is feverish and lurid where Gopnik's book is measured and polished.
Gopnik makes it clear from the outset what his and his wife's admittedly enviable plans are for the next five years, for the duration of this book. Buyer beware.
I would agree that he takes awhile to hit his stride, but Gopnik's talent for generalizing from common experience is wonderful. The parallel he finds between Americans' attitudes toward sport and the French's toward government officiousness is priceless. He manages to come to an understanding of soccer, a feat that to my mind compares favorably with writing, say, War and Peace.Read more ›
Most recent customer reviews
I had to read it for my book club. It only rated a 3 out of 10 with 8 readers. Not liked.Published 7 months ago by Sharon slaughter
This book is sinfully boring. As a travel memoir, it fails to capture the reader's imagination, and if I'd read this before going to Paris it might have discouraged me from going... Read morePublished on Nov. 29 2012 by Danielle
Paris to the Moon follows the relationship of a new father with an old city. The book's anicdotes describe Parisians and the awkward curiosity that Americans have with the Gallic... Read morePublished on May 14 2004 by JM II
I enjoyed Gopnik's book, primarily due to the mixture of personal reflection and careful observation that make up these essays. Read morePublished on May 2 2004 by C. Collins
If you enjoyed A. J. Liebling's Between Meals, An Appetite for Paris, you will probably enjoy this memoir of Paris.Published on April 21 2004
I too was suckered in by the praise this book received. In retrospect, I realize that the praise must have come from the author's boorish book critic friends and others so enamored... Read morePublished on April 9 2004
PARIS TO THE MOON is a wonderful book, that rare kind of book that leaves its readers feeling happy. (The title is explained in the first segment. Read morePublished on April 7 2004 by HeyJudy
This pretentious and narcissistic memoir may be useful if you are a member of the glitterati. Otherwise, look elsewhere for an authentic glimpse of Parisian life. Read morePublished on Dec 27 2003
Some where hidden behind all the name dropping and vainglorious details of fine wine and haut couture fashion shows, there's a boring story of a prententious American guy who comes... Read morePublished on Dec 22 2003