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Paris to the Moon [Paperback]

Adam Gopnik
3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (121 customer reviews)
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Book Description

March 27 2001 A Vintage original
Both deeply moving and hilarious….Whether he is writing about the singularity of the Papon trail, the splendour of French bistro cuisine, the idiosyncrasies of the French kindergarten system, or the exasperating bureaucracy of Parisian health clubs, Gopnik’s insights are informed by a formidable cultural intelligence, and offered in a prose as radiantly pellucid as that of any contemporary journalist. "Paris to the Moon is an utterly brilliant and exhilarating book." - Francine du Plessix Gray

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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five years in Paris with his wife, Martha and son, Luke, writing dispatches now collected here along with previously unpublished journal entries in Paris to the Moon.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

In this collection of 23 essays and journal entries, many of which were originally published in the New Yorker, Gopnik chronicles the time he spent in Paris between 1995 and 2000. Although his subjects are broadDglobal capitalism, American economic hegemony, France's declining role in the worldDhe approaches each one via the tiny, personal details of his life as a married expatriate with a small child. In one essay, he deftly reveals the dynamics of France's 1995 general strike by recounting his ordeal buying a Thanksgiving turkey from the localDstrikingDr tisseur. In "The Rules of the Sport," he explores the maddening, hilarious intricacies of French bureaucracy by way of a so-called New York-style gym, where his efforts to become a member encounter a wall of meetings, physical examinations and paperwork. Many of the entries, such as "The Fall of French Cooking," focus on how Paris is coping with the loss of its cultural might, and look at others of the inexorable changes brought on by global capitalism. "The Balzar Wars" describes a mini-revolt staged by a group of Parisians (including the author) when their local, family-owned brasserie is purchased by a restaurant tycoon. Throughout, Gopnik is unabashedly sentimental about Paris, yet he never loses the objectivity of his outsider's eye. His "macro in the micro" style sometimes seems a convenient excuse to write about himself, but elegantly woven together with the larger issues facing France, those personal observations beautifully convey a vision of Paris and its prideful, abstract-thinking, endlessly fascinating inhabitants. Although the core readership for this book will most likely be loyal New Yorker subscribers, its thoughtful, funny portrayal of French life give it broad appeal to Francophiles unfamiliar with Gopnik's work. (Oct.)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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First Sentence
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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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Must If You Love Paris June 6 2004
Format:Paperback
This book is a wonderful memoir of a New York family that moves to Paris for a period of 5 years with a young son in tow.
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.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars If You Like The New Yorker Sensibility... June 4 2004
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
...and think that "The New Yorker" slant on everything is the apex of Western thought, then you'll love this book because you're the kind of person who goes to Paris and experiences it and notices it the way Mr. Gopnik does. If you detest "The New Yorker"/"New York Times" Manhattan-centric provincialism, you'll hate this book. If you're somewhere between these two extremes, well, you'll love and hate "Paris to the Moon."
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.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars What's everybody's problem with this book? March 16 2004
Format:Paperback
I found this book to be perfectly charming. This is a New Yorker writer, whose wife is a filmmaker. Repeat that sentence and ponder its meaning. Some of the readers who have posted review here seem to expect Adam Gopnik to write a book about somebody else's experiences. They wouldn't do this themselves, or have their children do so. They wouldn't expect Hemingway to write about feng shui or Jane Eyre to write about the Peloponnesian Wars. This isn't a history of Paris, or a guide to the subway system. Perhaps Paris brings out self-obsessiveness; perhaps living in any other country does; but I compare Gopnik favorably with Anais Nin and Henry Miller, two other self-obsessed American writers in Paris, and wonderful writers they are, albeit in the 30's. (And by the way I think Gopnik is possibly Canadian; certainly his wife is.) His touch is lighter than Miller's. His affection for his family creates a warmer sort of familiarity than Miller's (which is very winning in its own way). There's a can-you-top-this aura to Henry Miller, whereas Gopnik just marvels at things and shows off his whimsical humor and gift for association. At the same time I find his prose to be more concrete and outwardly directed than Nin's. Not a high bar, that!
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.
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Most recent customer reviews
1.0 out of 5 stars Sinfully boring
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 more
Published 20 months ago by Danielle
5.0 out of 5 stars A father in Paris
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 more
Published on May 14 2004 by JM II
4.0 out of 5 stars Reflections on the city of light
I enjoyed Gopnik's book, primarily due to the mixture of personal reflection and careful observation that make up these essays. Read more
Published on May 2 2004 by C. B Collins Jr.
4.0 out of 5 stars Picks up where Liebling left off
If you enjoyed A. J. Liebling's Between Meals, An Appetite for Paris, you will probably enjoy this memoir of Paris.
Published on April 22 2004
1.0 out of 5 stars Few islands of humor in a sea of pretense
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 more
Published on April 9 2004
5.0 out of 5 stars An American in Paris
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 more
Published on April 7 2004 by HeyJudy
1.0 out of 5 stars A dreadful memoir
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 more
Published on Dec 27 2003
1.0 out of 5 stars Why the average Frenchmen doesn't like Americans in Paris
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 more
Published on Dec 22 2003
1.0 out of 5 stars Boring & Pretentious
I've read many books about Americans in France since I am an American in France myself and this has got to be the worst. Read more
Published on Dec 2 2003
4.0 out of 5 stars Ex-Pat in Paris
Originally reviewed on October 31, 2003

A lovely memoir blending the mundane activities of life as an ex-pat with the "only in Paris" characters Adam Gropnik... Read more
Published on Nov. 26 2003 by Michael Duranko
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