Tuesday, October 27, 2009

"Paris to the Moon" by Adam Gopnik

Just finished reading “Paris to the Moon” by Adam Gopnik and didn’t love, but did enjoy it.

It's a compilation of essays Gopnik wrote for The New Yorker and his personal journals from his time living in Paris (where he, his wife and young song spent five years leading up to the millennium). The book itself is a personal and funny view of Gopnik’s experiences as an expatriate from New York raising a child in in the City of Lights.

Two things from the opening chapter that struck me were Gopnik’s description of Paris and what he hoped to accomplish there...

In describing the attraction to the city, the phrase Gopnik wrote of he and his wife was that they “love Paris not of ‘nostalgia’, but because we love the look of light on things, as opposed to the look of light from things.” This struck me as a very nuanced and interesting way to describe something of natural (even if it involves man-made structures) surroundings.

To further describe why they moved to Paris, Gopnik wrote of “two kinds of travelers. The kind who goes to see what there is to see and sees it, and the kind who has an image in his head and then going out to accomplish it.” Very cool stuff.

I also liked the parts of the book that were about some of the more mundane things around his son (which I suppose makes them not mundane at all). In his chapter “The Rookie” (about making up a long-form narrative baseball bedtime story) and that on swimming at The Ritz pool (with his son spending time with a first crush), Gopnik provides some touching and well written stories.

I suppose the parts of the book I didn’t care for as much were those that dug more deeply into Paris itself (but, I think I would have liked them more had I been more than once) and those on cooking. That being said, the chapter on Alice Waters did make me interested in her Berkeley restaurant Chez Panisse.

All in all, a good book and it reminded me of two other books I enjoyed quite a bit also with significant content around being an American living with young children in France. In "Home Game: An Accidental Guide to Fatherhood" (which I reviewed here), Michael Lewis wrote (in part) of living with his wife and young child in Paris and and S.L. Price's excellent book "Far Afield: A Sportswriting Odyssey" was about his experiences living and working in small-town France.