on June 4, 2004
...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.
on June 6, 2004
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. This cafe becomes the victim of a corporate buyout and is almost lost until a band of dining brothers glue themselves together and form a secure fortress in pure French flair to save the cafe in its original form, garcons and all! It is an interesting look at how easy and yet how complicated life can be in Paris, all that French discussion can lead to something good.
I highly recommend this book to anyone who loves Paris and craves a walk down its Rues. Gopnik makes little things seem absolutely important and accurately describes all of the large and small nuances between the French and Americans. His wife, Martha, says it best, "We have a beautiful existence in Paris, but not a full life, and in New York we have a full life and an unbeautiful existence." This must be why Paris remains in the minds of most Americans who walk along its streets but slowly find themselves returning home, to the rush and bustle of America with an over-inflated heart.
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.
on December 1, 2003
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. I was annoyed hearing about the author's son and how precious we should think he is because he puts his dirty feet on bar stools to play pinball and pulls on lace curtains at restaurants. No wonder a stool magically appears under the pinball machine -the owners were probably sick of this American brat messing up the chairs for other customers! The author also reveals his thoughtlessness by "forgetting" to return six plates to a restaurant he convinces into serving him American-style take out. There is also lots of arrogant name dropping of all the famous people and expensive wines and food the author drinks and restaurants he visits. With Americans like this in France, no wonder the French hate us. The writing style was also annoying and jumped from one random thought to another. I felt like I was reading the badly written diary of a schizophrenic. The guy can't decide if he likes France or hates it. I only finished this in the hopes that it would get better but it never did. Waste of time.
on March 27, 2003
The WORST book I've ever read. I bought it originally to share a unique feeling you get from visiting Paris. The only thing I could share with the author was the need to sell this book. His stories were pretentious and so full of arrogance, I couldn't follow along. He talks about streets and hotels that only the rich have seen. Unless you've been there, you feel excluded. He certainly is no Peter Mayle. With Mayle's books, you yearn to visit his world and do what he's done. With Gopnick, you physically yearn for the book to be over. I can't remember how many times I put the book down in disgust or how many stories I half-finished to hopefully find one more interesting. However, guilt was the only reason I ever finally finished the book, and I'm so glad that I've gotten rid of it today. It was a waste of time and of money. I would recommend you buy twenty copies of Mayle's books. You'll finish them all ahead of this one. (A little note--The question is not whether you agree with my review. It's whether it's helpful or not. Use that criteria when clicking above.)
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.
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.
on May 2, 2004
I enjoyed Gopnik's book, primarily due to the mixture of personal reflection and careful observation that make up these essays. The essays about French cooking were certainly confirming in that the history of cooking is grounded in peasant fare and a return to those roots is a central theme in understanding good cooking foundations. I was most impressed however not by the essays on French government and culture but by the soft personal loving sections of the book on Gopnik's young son. Gopkik and his son swim at the Ritz pool in Paris where they meet two young girls. Gopnik's son's playful love for one of the female children was written so well and so transparently that I was amazed. The boy responds like a puppy, abaze with attraction and energy, swimming fearlessly in the deep end of the pool, like a magnet, a duckling, a male. Gopnik, the wise father, perfectly reads the situation, seeing eros engulf his little child, and supports the situation so that his son fully experiences this first taste of the honey and sting of the beautiful other.The children order expensive hot chocolate every day after swimming, which Gopnik endulges. It is Gopnik's wife upon discovering the VISA card balance that brings reality back into the picture. I would say to Gopnik "Your choices were correct, as you yourself know. The good father allows a child to experience the pull of beauty in the world, aware of the risks, aware of the rewards." I expected thoughtful essays because I have been a New Yorker/Gopnik fan. However, the passages on his relationship with his young son were sublime.
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!
on November 16, 2003
Featured on NPR, this wonderful book is a collection of essays about the writer's experience living in Paris with his wife and small child. Gopnik has the same love of Paris that Mayle has for Provence and gives you a similar humorous outsiders view into a foreign culture. The big difference between them is that Paris to the Moon is a collection of essays rather than a narrative book like Mayle's works. The result is sometimes disjointed, but thoroughly enjoyable. This is a book for anyone who has ever fantasized about living in Paris. Page after page he is living my dream life and it's delightful to escape into his world.
You really have to struggle through the clunky first few chapters to get to the good stuff. I quite nearly put the book down after the first couple of chapters. But after he finally gets into a grove and you settle into the odd disjointed style of a collection of essays, you're in for a treat. My favorite essay is the one about trying to get some exercise in Paris (the mere thought of which the Parisians consider unhealthy.) He has hysterical descriptions of the French view that sweat is not good for you, and all activity should be combined with a good meal and wine.
Although this is not as good of a book as Mayle's Year in Provence, it is a very enjoyable read, and a great escape to Paris