Friday, April 2, 2010
Adam Gopnik's a writer for the New Yorker who moved his budding family to Paris because, as he writes at one point, he wanted his infant son to grow up in a beautiful world, and not be exposed to Barney the Dinosaur. He succeeds at the first, but the beautiful world is still a globalized one, and his son becomes obsessed, in a very French way, with Barney. I assume the same sort of logic propels the continued existence of EuroDisney.
The book is a collection of his essays, nearly all of which are totally fascinating and very well-written. He writes the common tropes about an American experiencing odd European customs, and witnessing the strange cultural colonization of American habits invading Paris. His essay on finding a gym was illuminating - people in Paris, other than ex-pats and police officers, don't jog. And their gyms are more for hanging out and eating sandwiches in pools than burning calories. When he finds a brand new "New York style" gym and joins it, it still retains enough Parisian-ness that the actual workout is pretty self-conscious and almost funny. His chapters about fashion week, French cooking, and daily cultural interactions are great, and he writes in big enough words that it keeps you on your toes. Enough history is thrown into the mix that you learn quite a bit about French politics and social events, too.
He shines when writing about his son, and trying to raise him well. He talks about their story time before bed, which at first just consists of him telling heroic baseball stories about "The Champ" who's a pitcher about the age of his son. There's not baseball in France so he feels he has to instill some American cultural heritage. But he goes and researches old early 20th century baseball and creates a world where The Champ is fighting with Ty Cobb, and playing in all of the old timey parks in their funny hats every night, and it apparently just captivates his son. I'd guess that pretty much anything would have, but the added storytelling prowess just adds to the effect. Anyways, it worked, as did the book.