Two weeks removed from graduate school, it is clear to me how they lure you back for things like PhDs. I’ve grumbled in prior posts like this one about all the things I hope to read once I can make my own reading choices. But the thing is: I’m still mostly reading about France, even though various social media connections equipped me with a lengthy list of books to try once I emerged from my tricolor hangover.
There are worse problems to have. After all, I really do like France, perhaps even more than before. So right now, I think I’ll start using this oft-neglected space to talk about some of the books I’m reading, my limitless Francophilia and whatever else seems to make sense.
Here goes nothing.
The first book I read after successfully defending my master’s thesis was David Lebovitz‘s The Sweet Life in Paris. Lebovitz, a cookbook author and former pastry chef at the famed restaurant Chez Panisse, moved to Paris after his partner’s death. Sweet Life is, in part, his memoir of starting over, but also a hilariously funny account of life the City of Light. Whether he’s grappling with French painters, dressing up to take out the trash or mastering the Gallic art of cutting in line, Lebovitz shows readers that his days don’t begin with a croissant and a copy of Le Monde and don’t end in a heated discussion about Sartre in the Latin Quarter. If anything, Lebovitz finds that life in Paris involves illogical rules, apathetic shopkeepers, unfathomable rudeness and maddening bureaucracy at almost every turn. His anecdote about returning a cell phone charger to Darty, the French equivalent of Best Buy, is one of the best in the book (in part because I experienced something similar in quite possibly the same exact store this past January). And, his various observations about strikes, waiting in line, opening bank accounts and getting help from the locals are laugh out loud funny, in large part because they are not at all mean-spirited. Lebovitz loves and accepts his adopted city, warts and all, and manages to see it through rose-colored glasses:
If you’ve ever walked through Paris at night, you can’t help noticing that its beauty is magnified in the darkness; lights glow softly everywhere and frame the centuries-old buildings and monuments in spectacular ways. I remember that evening breathing in the damp air rising off the Seine, watching the Bateaux Parisiens gliding on the river, loaded with awestruck tourists, and illuminating the monuments in their wake, their dramatic light hitting a building for just a few moments before moving on to the next.
My one incredibly small (teensy, almost invisible, and totally nerdy) quibble with this book is