An Armchair Trip To Paris

In my last post, I mentioned that recently I've been reading books about Paris. I finished The Piano Shop on the Left Bank first and just about an hour ago, I finished Paris Was Ours.

They were suggested to me by a former co-worker and she was right when she said that she thought that I would enjoy them. I loved both of these books!

The lazy days of summer are behind us now, so maybe you won't be reading these at the beach, but these are good reading wherever you are.

For anyone who knows me or has read this blog for a while, it's no secret that I love Paris and most all things French and these books brought back quite a few memories.

The Piano Shop on the Left Bank is a true story written by author Thad Carhart about how while living in Paris, he found a piano shop and rediscovered his love for playing piano. The book is a love story to the instrument and made me think about a summer when I was a kid and took piano lessons. I really liked it too.

It also made me think about songs where the piano is very dominant. While I'm not particularly a fan of the song, the beginning of this one keeps running through my mind. There are even piano tutorials online for it.

The book combines the beauty of words by a creative author who loves music and appreciates the art and skill of the people who make pianos. He talks about the different types of wood used for pianos. Did you know that spruce is the most favored wood?

When the book discusses different fruit wood trees, it really made me think about all the varieties of fruit that grow on trees and the different woods that are used for furniture and floors. The author also writes about how a piano is the only instrument that is also a piece of furniture and really adds to the decor and personality of a room. After reading this book, it makes me want to get a piano and start taking lessons again!

Before I started reading the book, I saw a piano moving truck in Quincy and wondered if there are really that many pianos being moved that it could sustain an entire business. Well, I guess so! And I never realized that piano tuning is such an art! I guess I've never thought so deeply about pianos until reading this book. The setting in Paris adds to story and lets us see into a world that would be quite closed to us otherwise.

* * *

 Paris Was Ours, edited by Penelope Rowlands, is a collection of 32 essays by writers reflecting on their time in Paris. I loved it! Some of the stories are very different from what I expected. It certainly is not all croissants and carousels.

One of the dominant themes running through the book is that there is a certain sinister side to Paris. It was mentioned many times. This surprised me. Here's an excerpt from Litost by Brigid Dorsey.
It was one of these girls, a beautiful young Irishwoman, who described to me her perception of something I'd long felt but could not yet admit about Paris: its distinctly sinister side. Something about its history -- more than in London or other European cities -- oozes from its Haussmannian boulevards and wedding-cake buildings and makes you feel the blood that has run in the streets, during the Commune and the Revolution and for centuries before. Dickens's image of a peasant woman knitting the names of the condemned into her work feels all too believable once you have spent any length of time among Parisians. It is why fresh-faced Americans don't stand a chance. To play the Parisian game, you must become sophisticated, with haste.
The stories in Paris Was Ours are all so incredibly different. Some of the more famous contributors are David Sedaris and David Lebovitz, but all the stories are quite enthralling.

With each story, we get to see a different slice of Paris. A new perspective. Maybe not as as sweet as a macaron, but captivating just the same.

*Updated 9/3/2013* Speaking of pianos, I just read that 75 pianos will be installed in public spots in Boston for anyone to play. Looking forward to this! To all you piano players in the Boston area,  I hope you can play us a tune. Maybe we'll be seeing people break out into song and dance around this!

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Can-Can said…
I so enjoyed The Piano Shop on the Left Bank. The librarian at my local library recommended it to me a couple of years back and it had me enthralled. I will get Paris Was Ours. Thanks for this post.
Lisa Johnson said…
can-can - Hope you enjoy the book! Glad you liked the post! : )

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