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3.4 out of 5 stars
Paris to the Moon
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on March 16, 2004
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. He may wander for a time in fashion circles (were I in Paris with the appropriate press pass I would too), yet he has a talent for bringing the whole crazy scene down to earth. He and his wife are raising a boy and (near the end) giving birth to a girl, and I find nothing wrong, and everything praiseworthy, about giving this side of his life center stage from time to time. The description of pregnancy and childbirth in France is one of the most memorable parts of the story.
As you might expect, there is plenty here about food, and about restaurants, and about language, and about globalization, and about New York, too, aka home. As with New Yorker writing at all times, the prose is idiosyncratic, breezy, maybe a little unedited. That's just the way it is. I guess if you like it, you love it, and if you don't you don't.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on May 14, 2004
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 personality. Gopnik is a Paris romantic, but doubts that the city remains the international capital of culture.
Gopnik is a New Yorker at heart, but has a tremendous desire to understand and to fit into Paris. This dilemma never resolves itself, but Gopnik's struggle is a journey that is unique to contemporary America (and Paris). The desire to be separate from New York, a romanticism for Paris, and the uncertainties that come with being a father mix for a touching description of an American abroad.
As a casual speaker of French, a new father, and a lover of Paris, I found the book insightful and meaningful.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on October 17, 2000
What a sublime book! Adam Gopnik combines an amazing breadth of knowledge about the world (actually, about many worlds) with an impressive eye for details. And what details! Paris bursts into view here as though we're looking through a steroptikon for the very first time. Highly recommended to Francophiles, Gopniphiles and all readers who long for a book they can say they loved.
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on April 7, 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.)
Author Adam Gopnik wrote many of these pieces as the permanent correspondent for the "New Yorker" Magazine in Paris. According to the foreword, a few other sections are seeing print for the first time here, coming directly from his personal diary.
PARIS TO THE MOON covers a five-year interval during which the author and his wife lived in Paris with their newborn son. The vignettes included are very personal. Gopnik tells of their adventures as strangers in a strange land, celebrating the similarities in everyday life and delighting (pretty much) in the differences.
So many of us, so many Americans in Paris, do love that city and this book will strike a chord in anyone who ever has visited there. And it also will resonate with any reader who, simply, loves good writing, because this is writing at its best.
The only complaint is that this reminiscence is too short!
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on July 31, 2003
What a nostalgic delight this is for anyone who's been embraced by the warm graciousness of the typical Parisian, found community in a favorite local bistro, or sampled a diminutive artistic pastry treat from Laduree at Christmas time.
Adam Gopnik makes you laugh as you also recall the first time you tried to peck out an email on a French keyboard, or had to sweat out any one of a number of strike threats, just like his pregnant wife who wanted to make sure all the anesthesiologists were very "happy" with their employment right around the time she was to give birth.
Gopnik loved the anonymity of NY, but also the Parisian way of life where you are familiar with everyone with whom you come in contact right down to the dry cleaner. He tried sprinting with other Americans in the left bank's Luxembourg gardens in an effort to engage in sports. And absent a gym, bought a summer "spa" pass so he could exercise with a swim in the pool at the Ritz where he found most Europeans simply dangling their legs while eating tea sandwiches from silver trays.
With just a few words, he embodies the lovely and luxurious ambiance of his home away from home, "Parisians are just busy 'being.'"
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on June 28, 2003
In this thoroughly charming collection of related essays, Adam Gopnik has rendered the contradictory impulses of the modern, well-educated émigré. Thoroughly American, he nonetheless has a lifelong love of France and French culture. Raising his son and bearing a daughter with his wife during a 5-year stay in Paris, he comes to feel that he will never be totally comfortable in either world. He finds that this will be doubly true for his son, returning to his birthplace after spending his most formative years immersed in Parisian daily life.
In these writings Gopnik does a superb job of skewering the uniquely French capacity for abstraction, particularly in the bureaucracy of the State, and consequently also the uniquely American worship of the concrete and absolute. He leaves it to the reader to conclude that there are things none too pretty about both cultures, as well as things of great worth. That these cultural differences may be at the root of the current trans-Atlantic friction will not be lost on the thoughtful reader - nor will Gopnik's delicately-crafted reminders of the things that those of us who have spent time in France have come to love about the French people. The writing is gifted, and the prose has a cadence that nearly creates a meditative state. Highly recommended, particularly for those drowning in cynicism.
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on March 13, 2003
Living in Paris was the dream and wish of this author since he
first visited during his teenage years. It has been said, "once, you visit Paris, you must return ..." and much of the allure is based on the desire to relive the memories of the first meal ever consumed there, recalling all the tantalizing and delicious flavors that only Parisians can create. The book is essentially a 4 year memoir of living in Paris from the mid-1990s. The author is a writer for the New Yorker magazine, his wife a screenplay writer, who, along with their infant son, pack up and leave their home in New York, for the adventure of a lifetime. What I loved most about the book is how the author compares and contrasts American thinking, logic, and values with those of the socialistic, French, cosmopolitan view. The book is educational, literary, entertaining and occasionally amusing. The author's technique of interspersing French history and political outlook with current events and situations is particularly effective. The author writes with first hand knowledge about fashion shows held by the elite designers, the Parisian cuisine of the most well-established restaurants, reasons for some fo the strikes, the socialistic approach to healthcare, and even apartment hunting, explaining how & why the government owns apartments in the "best" neighborhoods, available only to highly elected officals. Of interest to me, was a chapter on the political trial of a government official who had been involved in processing the paperwork for Jews who were deported to concentration camps during World War II - the sobering past is never too far away. My favorite story was the "Balzar Wars" in which a group of restaurant regulars (well established customers) form an "association" to stand up for the rights of the waiters (garcons) when an restaurant tycoon buys this favorite restaurant of theirs ... The author describes favorite "haunts" of his such as museums, art galleries, parks near the Left Bank, and even how to maneuver through the red-tape of the "Bibliotheque National" (Naitonal Library). He also describes the favorite places of his son, who is around 2 - 3 years of age by then. Another charming story was his son's first "love affair" with a Parisian blond beauty, of about 4 years of age. There is just the right combination of intellectual discourse, creative description and chatty banter, to create a hihgly pleasurable reading experience. Erika B.
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on September 12, 2002
In fall 1995, Gopnick, an art and cultural critic for The New Yorker, moved to Paris with his wife and young son, Luke. His reports from the city, published regularly in the magazine, proved to be fluent and witty, delightful fodder for anyone who loves Paris or has ever dreamed of living abroad. Those pieces, collected here, constitute more than a memoir of one American's struggles to adjust to French ways (though Gopnick was not completely out of his depth, having lived briefly in Paris as a child). True, the essays take the intimate and everyday as their genesis, covering, for instance, Gopnick's attempts to sign up at a "New York-style" health club, taking Luke to puppet shows and the carousel, visiting the new Biblioth que National or the "dinosaur museum," struggling with French Christmas tree lights, and fighting to keep a favorite restaurant alive. But these are just starting points for deeper reflections on what it means to be French, to be American, and simply to be alive at the close of the 20th century. Gopnick's essays do what the best writing should do: they inform as they entertain. Highly recommended.
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There is so much to like about this book that it's difficult to begin at any specific spot. Aside from the wonderful viewpoints of Parisian life offered by a true North American (that is: someone who was born in the United States and lived for many years in Canada), there is pure entertainment value in Gopnik's writing about French cooking and French restaurants--historically and contemporaneously. Renting an apartment, buying Christmas trees and strings of lights, all the things that are ordinary events on this continent are entirely different, challenging, even frustrating for Gopnik, his wife and son in Paris. But more than anything else, what I found completely engaging was the growth of Gopnik's son, Luke Auden, during the family's five years in Paris. The child is so vividly drawn, so very real, so very French in many ways and yet multi-national, that his adventures, his thoughts and words and even his little-boy "love affair" with the divine Cressida are--as represented by his father--completely enchanting.
Of his own Parisian gaffes and uncertainties, of his passions and his evolution into a true "foodie" Gopnik is refreshingly truthful. He writes beautifully, whether it's about politics, or cooking, or dining out. And, ultimately, he comes across as someone who is very aware of every nuance of the world and the people around him.
This is a lovely book. Most highly recommended.
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When I have gone to Paris myself I have found there are two ways to see the city. You can have a map and camera at the read and jaunt from sight to sight packing it all in or you can just grab a journal and start walking. The style of this book reminds me of those serene walks I have taken in this city.
Gopnik certainly lets his personal and political views be known but they were interestiing to me and it is all part of the experience of accepting new ideas when traveling. I also agree with his politics and respect him very much as a writer.
From the smells of the city, to the everyday sounds of the neighborhood, to the experience of dining in a strange new place I found myself inhabiting that lighthearted and almost dreamlike state I get when I go there myself. By the end of the book I had fallen in love with Paris all over again.
It is definately a 'day in the life of ' book. Not a lot happens. It moves at the slow relaxed pace of a Sunday parisian afternoon. Don't even try this book if you are an impatient reader. If you just like absorbing the local color of a beautiful and complex city...get your passport and start reading.
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