I love Paris

A Town like ParisA town like Paris is the latest in a long list of love letters to the City of Light; this time it’s a fair dinkum (do people still say that?- perhaps in Paris they do) Aussie who flees a dead-end job and a broken heart to make a new life for himself. 

Bryce Corbett had been a gossip columnist and showbiz producer for Sky news until one too many Britney Spears stories (plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose) made him decide to move to Paris to take a job as Director of Communications for an international business organisation, a job he was distinctly under-qualified for.

Books about people turning such whims into success in love and life in foreign climes are numerous, but Corbett is an entertaining writer with a nice line in self-deprecation. The story of how he moved to a city where he knew no-one, could barely speak the language and had nowhere to live but where he managed to find a better job, best the Paris traffic on his scooter and find love with an Australian showgirl is handled well in an immensely readable style.   

Corbett is not the first expatriate to fall in love with one of the most beautiful cities in the world,  nor is he the first to write about it.  Another enjoyable book about living as a foreigner in Paris is Adam Gopnik’s Paris to the moon, which describes the five years he spent in Paris as the French correspondent for The New Yorker.

Gopnik uses his outsider’s eye to acutely observe French culture and his elegant writing style to express just how different the same experiences can be in two great cities like Paris and New York, from having a baby to renting an apartment.

The FlaneurHe has also written a charming children’s book set in Paris – The King in the window, which tells the story of an 11 year old American boy whose life in Paris is not much fun until he becomes involved in the war between the phantoms who live in the windowpanes and the soul-stealers who live in mirrors.

For those who just can’t get enough of gay Paree, The Flaneur is a small but perfect look at Paris from the great American writer Edmund White. The concept of the flaneur exists only in French, describing a person who spends entire days wandering the streets with no aim other than just having a look at things. And where better to do it than Paris?

The Beautiful Fall

How appropriate is the subtitle of this book “fashion, genius and glorious excess in 1970s Paris”. It is not new – published 2006 and I’m not a follower of fashion – but the cliche “I couldn’t put it down” certainly applied to me when I read this book recently. I couldn’t wait to see what happened to the whole unlovely cast of characters Alicia Drake assembles in her book The Beautiful Fall.

The story follows the lives and careers of fashion giants Karl Lagerfeld and Yves Saint Laurent as well as their various hangers on (boyfriends, muses, business partners, court jesters, employees) and the changing directions and fortunes of French haute couture. It is a story of amazing talents, vaunting ambitions and the siren lure of escaping the provinces to reinvent yourself and become famous (even for a short time) in Parisienne society. Throw in an industry that allows successful designers to make huge amounts of money, the heady days of disco and gay excess followed by the spectres of heroin, cocaine and AIDS and you have conflict and tragedy a plenty.