Thirty-two essays—many never before published—of life in Paris from writers who were drawn by the city’s charms to take up residence there.
In thirty-two personal essays, more than half of which are published here for the first time, authors describe how they were seduced by Paris—and then began to see things differently. They came to write, to cook, to find love, to study, to raise children, to escape, or to live the way it’s done in French movies; they came from the United States, Canada, and England; from Iran, Iraq, and Cuba; and—a few—from other parts of France. And they stayed, not as tourists, but as Parisians; some are still living there.
In Paris Was Ours, these outsiders-turned-insiders share their observations and revelations about the City of Light. The collection includes entries from celebrated literary expats, such as Diane Johnson, David Sedaris, Judith Thurman, Joe Queenan, and Edmund White.
Together, their reflections form an unusually perceptive and multifaceted portrait of a city that is entrancing, at times exasperating, but always fascinating. They remind us that Paris belongs to everyone it has touched, and to each in a different way.
“[A] wonderful collection . . . The essays capture the mood of the city in all of its dark and light shades, evoking the spirit of Eugene Atget and Marcel Proust.” —Chicago Tribune
In original and previously published essays, 32 diverse writers share both exciting and depressing Paris moments. Diane Johnson, evaluating French stereotypes, was surprised that French hostesses serve store-bought entrees. Jeremy Mercer was taken in by the owner of the famous bookstore Shakespeare & Co., living there rent-free (downstairs "with the riffraff," and Janine di Giovanni saw French mothers hit their children to enforce good manners. In three of the most substantial essays, Alicia Drake muses on the disconcerting ability of the French to accept human faults as she visits sites from which the Nazis, aided by French police, deported Jews to their deaths; Stacy Schiff finds that picking up the dry cleaning was less of a chore when done on ground Ben Franklin and John Adams trod before her; and Roxane Farmanfarmaian escaped revolutionary Iran for springtime in Paris. Many of the original pieces are wordy, mired in mundaneness, and lacking forceful editing by journalist Rowlands (A Dash of Daring: Carmel Snow and Her Life in Fashion, Arts and Letters), But overall this book should strike a chord in those harboring love/hate relationships with Paris and Parisians.