Stay in and read some books - Village Voice Bookshop, The House I Loved and A Certain Je Ne Sais Quoi: The Ideal Guide to Sounding, Acting and Shrugging like the French



Today is a sad day for Anglophone book lovers in Paris - it marks the last author event at the Village Voice Bookshop before it closes its doors definitively on July 31, 2012. Even though I wasn't a frequent customer, I'll always remember the store fondly because it's where my daughter and I listened to Amy Tan talk about her writing, growing up as the child of immigrant parents in the United States and coping with the painful loss of her mother. Creating an intimacy that I've never experienced with a group of strangers, Ms Tan laughed, cried and charmed us all. It remains one of my most memorable evenings in Paris.

At 7:00 pm tonight, the author of The English Patient, Michael Ondaatje, will discuss his new novel, The Cat's Table. Be sure to arrive early because this event will draw a large crowd.



People often purchase books to help set the mood for travel and that's exactly what my friend Heidi did in preparation for her recent trip to Paris. Being the generous soul that she is, Heidi left The House I Loved by Tatiana de Rosnay and A Certain Je Ne Sais Quoi: The Ideal Guide to Sounding, Acting and Shrugging like the French by Charles Timoney for me to enjoy.

While I had been intrigued by the premise of The House I Loved ever since I heard Tatiana de Rosnay talk about it at the American Library and would still recommend it to anyone wanting to learn more about Emperor Napoleon III and Baron Hausmann's dramatic transformation of Paris, I wish that Ms. de Rosnay would have had more confidence in her readers. Rather than emphasizing how Rose felt when she learned that her husband's familial home on rue Childebert was to be destroyed to make room for the boulevard Saint-Germaine, I would have preferred to have become so absorbed by the descriptions of Rose's neighborhood that I couldn't imagine wanting to live anywhere else, not even in the Emperor's newly created modern city of broad avenues and clean air.

If you want to pass for a French person, Charles Timoney's second book, A Certain Je Ne Sais Quoi: The Ideal Guide to Sounding, Acting and Shrugging like the French is full of excellent tips, such as how to gesticulate and exclaim, how to deal with waiters and find the restroom in a restaurant and how not to look like a tourist. Perhaps more importantly, Timoney answers the age-old questions...."But what exactly is a bidet for? And at what moment in the day is it used?" I guarantee that the answers aren't what you expect.

Buy some books and support your local independent bookstore! Otherwise, they'll go the way of Village Voice Bookshop.

Comments

  1. Very sad to hear that this shop is closing.....This news is coincidental with last night's airing of "You've Got Mail" on TV. "The Shop Around the Corner" owned by Meg Ryan, was closed when a bookstore giant owned by Tom Hanks, opens across the street.
    Great movie, unfortunate reality for the MOM and POP establishments.

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    1. I guess the cost of Paris Walks will increase....same owner, no?

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    2. The upcoming closing of the Village Voice also reminded me of "You've Got Mail", although I guess that this time around it's ebooks that are to blame more than giant bookstores. Places like Borders are also becoming a way of the past. Sigh....

      Interestingly enough, French bookstores are doing alright according to this NYTimes article that Joseph sent to me. The French Still Flock to Bookstores

      According to the article, "E-books account for only 1.8 percent of the general consumer publishing market here, compared with 6.4 percent in the United States. The French have a centuries-old reverence for the printed page."

      I just looked at the Paris Walks website and the owners aren't the same.

      If you don't subscribe to David Lebovitz's blog, you may want to check it out this week because he's traveling in Israel.

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  2. I don't think I ever went to this shop while in Paris, but it will be missed, I'm sure. I agree with you Mary Kay, support your local bookstores, especially if you want them to be there in the future. I can't buy all my books from my neighborhood Barnes and Noble and I can't always go to the independent store in Lakeview for books either but I do buy from them every month, if only a ten dollar book. And I think I have to go out and get the Timoney book, pronto.

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    1. The Village Voice is down a little side street on the rue Princesse, right near the metro Saint-Germain-des-Prés. It would be easy to miss if you didn't know that it's there.

      The Timoney book is a good one for anyone who wants to have a better understanding of French culture. Plus, it's written in an entertaining manner.

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  3. I have two favourite bookshops in nearby towns, but unfortunately their assortment of English books isn't that great. Therefore, I'm forced to buy most of my books online from a big national supplier. Your post made me consider this strategy - it should be no problem for the small local bookstores to order my English books, don't you think? And while I'm in town to pick up those books, I could give the cosy café next door some business and enjoy my cup of coffee and a croissant there. Thanks for reminding me, Mary Kay! P.S. The book by Timoney really is worth reading (and a good laugh). I've got another great one about Paris in line for you - just wait till I've finished it myself.

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    1. First of all, thanks again for leaving "The House that I Loved" and "A Certain Je Ne Sais Quoi" with me. I thought about you when Timoney explains when to use "vous" and "tu". I would have liked to have had the opportunity to discuss it with you because I found lots of similarities between the Swiss French and the French and was wondering what you think as a Swiss German.

      Since Paul and you are the ones who always encourage me to patronize small stores, I most certainly agree that you should order your English books from the local bookstores and enjoy a cup of coffee at the cafe next door. I only wish that I was there to join you!

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  4. There is a pleasant familiarity that accompanies an hour of browsing the shelves of a family owned bookshop and it saddens me that yet another one is closing its doors. Though I have not had the benefit of visiting the Village Voice Bookshop, I am sure it will be sadly missed by its patrons.

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    1. It will. There was a very good turnout for Michael Ondaatje's reading last night that felt rather nostalgic for days past. Not only are the English bookstores a good place to find English books in Paris, but they're also gathering spots for expats and travelers.

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  5. Well, that's the thing, people mourn their passing, but don't use them while they're there. And as a librarian, albeit one who has never worked in a public library, I am compelled to remind you that you should support your local libraries, which provide you with books and more for freeeee (or paid for by your tax dollars, whatever).

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    1. You're so right, Gwan. As much as I mourn the passing of The Village Voice, I didn't do as much to support it as I should have.

      Libraries, on the other hand, I always support! Getting our library cards was and is one of the first things that we do whenever we move to a new town. Even though I don't have a card for the French libraries, I do for the American Library in Paris. Come to think of it, I've been intending to do a post about the library. It has an interesting history.

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  6. Re: Village Voice Bookstore...sad. I read the other day that they're actually closing more than one American bookstore in Paris. Can't remember the name of the other ones.

    Re: Charles Timoney's book...ha, there's a book for everything!

    Re: Bidet...hahahahaha...I'm from Spain and they're just another bathroom fixture. It amuses me how fascinated and intrigued Americans can be about them. Just imagine being this curious about a WC!! To me, it feels like that.

    Gotta run...
    :)

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