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.