Paris. Some people are seriously in love and obsessed with this city, others just shrug, ‘eh’. No matter how you feel, just say “Paris” and you immediately think of something… you can’t help it. Like New York, this city is larger than life in our imaginations. It is steeped in history, significant to just about any subject you can think of. Fashion, military, architecture, movies, mathematics, science, etc.
The catalyst for my Parisian longings was “Julie & Julia“, a film based on the book by Julie Powell. (The movie was directed and screen-written by Nora Ephron, who died yesterday – a strange coincidence, as I had started this post yesterday, thinking of this movie) made by I saw this movie, and while I wasn’t overwhelmed by the story, I thought was intrigued by the depiction of Julia Child and her French surrounds.
I had heard of Julia Child before, but didn’t know much about her. To learn more, I borrowed DVDs of her show “The French Chef” from my library.
You can watch all the episodes by checking them out at your local library or get a quick fix by downloading free episodes online. Julia is great in these and I wanted more of her… so I found her book, My Life in France.
It’s all about Julia Child and her time in France where she discovered, almost accidentally, her love for cooking. It’s a wonderful read, and paints a portrait of Paris in all its culinary glory.
There are a ton of movies produced and/or set in France, but one I’ve seen recently sums it up: “Paris Je T’aime“. It’s a film made up of 18 short stories all set in Paris, done by different directors with different actors telling stories about Paris and the lives of its inhabitants. There’s also Woody Allen’s most recent, “Midnight in Paris“, which presents a historical view of arts and culture in Paris, of which there is just. so. much.
One example is the literary scene in Paris in the 1920’s. Holy cow. Hemingway‘s writing grew up in Paris during this time. I’m not a big fan of his fiction writing, but his non-fiction is compelling. I’m reading his memoir of his time in Paris, A Moveable Feast. The counterpoint to this book is a novel called The Paris Wife, about Hemingway’s first wife, who was with him during the Paris years. This was a quick read, it’s not particularly well-written, but the story gives you a good overview of the Hemingways’ lives at that time.
The writers and artists that feature prominently in these books – Dos Passos, the Fitzgeralds, Pound, Stein, et al – were all impactful on arts and culture in the 1920s and have been since then.
David McCullough, a historian and writer, recently wrote The Greater Journey: Americans In Paris, about Americans who traveled to France in the 1800s and were intellectually impacted by their stay there. I haven’t read it yet, but I have enjoyed other works of his and look forward to diving into this one.
Whatever it is that draws you to Paris, or even the idea of Paris, you are not alone. And until you can get there in person, you can pass the time by learning about its history, reading and watching movies about the people who have ‘found’ themselves, their calling, their passions there. While you’re at it, learn a new language.
No matter when you go, save your money for your trip… you can get all these books, movies, and language and music CDs at your local library, all for free. !!