Thrust into the unlikely role of professional "literary walking tour" guide, an expat writer provides the most irresistibly witty and revealing tour of Paris in years.
In this enchanting memoir, acclaimed author and long-time Paris resident John Baxter remembers his yearlong experience of giving "literary walking tours" through the city. Baxter sets off with unsuspecting tourists in tow on the trail of Paris's legendary artists and writers of the past. Along the way, he tells the history of Paris through a brilliant cast of characters: the favorite cafés of Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and James Joyce; Pablo Picasso's underground Montmartre haunts; the bustling boulevards of the late-nineteenth-century flâneurs; the secluded "Little Luxembourg" gardens beloved by Gertrude Stein; the alleys where revolutionaries plotted; and finally Baxter's own favorite walk near his home in Saint-Germain-des-Prés.
Biographer and critic Baxter serves as an inestimable guide to the boulevards, alleys, and streets of the City of Lights in this lovingly crafted and gorgeous memoir of his strolls in Paris. For Baxter, as for the flaneurs who have come before him, a walk in Paris is a succession of instants, any one of which can illuminate a lifetime; every stroll through the city reveals yet another element of the city. With great humor and affection, he recreates numerous walks through various sections, regaling us with tales of expatriate writers like Hemingway, Fitzgerald, and Joyce, who called the city their own. He guides us from the Luxembourg Gardens, whose shadows and light recall for him the story of Henri D sir Landru, the murderer who arranged his initial meetings with his victims in the gardens, to the catacombs, the underground cemeteries that now function as sanitized tourist attractions. Acknowledging that his personal most beautiful walk is the one down his own street, the rue de l'Odeon, since stepping onto its sidewalks is to wade into literary history (the printer Nicholas Bonneville sheltered the pamphleteer Thomas Paine here while Paine composed The Rights of Man), he reminds readers that walking around Paris is an art and that one who walks in Paris writes a new history with each step.