I heard so many rave reviews about Adam Gopnik’s Paris to the Moon that I had to see what all the fuss was about. There are a lot of authors writing about Paris but Gopnik seems to be THE Francophile on the tip of everyone’s tongue.
I wasn’t in Paris long enough to be wooed by it. But I imagine Gopnik would have said that Paris doesn’t care to woo me. Paris to the Moon is the complete unpublished journal entries of Gopnik’s five-year New Yorker assignment. Despite being published in 2000, his reflections on life as an ex-pat are still remarkably fresh. He does a wonderful job at depicting all the insecurities of being the “outsider” looking in.
Some of my favourite parts of the book were his reflections on raising a child in Paris. There are also reflections on French life – another hilarious story about fitness centres in Paris, or the lack thereof. You can practically salivate at his descriptions of Parisian cuisine. It’s all a fantastic read till Gopnik starts trying to justify why soccer is so boring. I found that chapter so dull, I could barely finish the pages. Gopnik is by no means a sports writer.
Perhaps the best reflections are about French politics. He explains that his answering machine constantly gives a “distant erreur” message and that French politics is much the same way. The problems are always from someplace else. And in a lot of ways, this is politics everywhere.
Gopnik is truly, madly, deeply in love with Paris. He takes a great snapshot of a culture that is slowly losing its lustre thanks to the commercialization of all things good. Hundreds of years from now, we’ll read Paris to the Moon and wonder if we’ll ever see the bistros he describes again.