Paris. The name alone conjures images of chestnut-lined
boulevards, sidewalk cafés, breathtaking façades
around every corner--in short, an exquisite romanticism that
has captured the American imagination for as long as there
have been Americans.
In 1995, Gopnik, his wife, and their infant son left the
familiar comforts and hassles of New York City for the urbane
glamour of the City of Light. Gopnik is a longtime New Yorker
writer, and the magazine has sent its writers to Paris for
decades--but his was above all a personal pilgrimage to the
place that had for so long been the undisputed capital of
everything cultural and beautiful. It was also the opportunity
to raise a child who would know what it was to romp in the
Luxembourg Gardens, to enjoy a croque monsieur in a Left Bank
café--a child (and perhaps a father, too) who would
have a grasp of that Parisian sense of style we Americans
find so elusive.
So, in the grand tradition of the American abroad, Gopnik
walked the paths of the Tuileries, enjoyed philosophical discussions
at his local bistro, wrote as violet twilight fell on the
arrondissements. Of course, as readers of his"Paris Journals" in
The New Yorker know, there was also the matter of raising
a child and carrying on with day-to-day, not-so-fabled life.
Evenings with French intellectuals preceded middle-of-the-night
baby feedings; afternoons were filled with trips to the Musée
d'Orsay and pinball games; weekday leftovers were eaten while
three-star chefs debated a "culinary crisis."
As Gopnik describes in this funny and tender book, the dual
processes of navigating a foreign city and becoming a parent
are not completely dissimilar journeys--both hold new routines,
new languages, a new set of rules by which everyday life is
lived. With wit and insight, he weaves the magical with the
mundane in a delightful, often hilarious look at what it was
to be an American family man in Paris at the end of the twentieth
century. "We went to Paris for a sentimental reeducation-I
did anyway-even though the sentiments we were instructed in
were not the ones we were expecting to learn, which I believe
is why they call it an education."