paris was ours by penelope rowlands


gertrude Stein once said, "America is my country, but Paris is my hometown." That is pretty much how I feel about Paris. A psychic once told me that I have had 3 happy lives in Paris. So maybe that is why I feel this way. This book is a charming look into the lives of people who feel the same way about Paris as I do. I am about 2/3s of the way through the book and trying to read it slowly to make it last as long as possible.

In this volume, thirty-two writers parse their Paris moments. Some are well known -- Joe Queenan, Janine di Giovanni, Diane Johnson, Stacy Schiff, Judith Thurman, Edmund White, and Lily Tuck among them. Others, including a French blogger who doesn’t consider herself to be a writer at all, are not. Yet each has an intriguing story to tell. And about half of these pieces, commissioned specifically for this book, are here published for the first time.

These writers came to Paris from many directions -- North America, the Middle East, other parts of Europe -- and for myriad reasons, from learning French to attending cooking school to simply finding work. They were typically young when they did so, typically open, and the experience typically changed their lives.

Some write about why they moved to the place the writer Francine du Plessix Gray has dubbed "that siren Paris" in the first place. Others about what they found after they arrived. For some, the French capital could never be home; others never left. And, for surprisingly many, this siren continued to sing even after they'd moved away.

Taken together, these essays add up to a single, multifaceted portrait -- one that, like a cubist painting, is all the more descriptive for the disparate elements it contains. The result is a rich and complex depiction of an entrancing, at times exasperating, always fascinating place to live.-