dimanche, mars 05, 2006

American Library in Paris

Out in the 7th Arrondissement, very near the Eiffel Tower, a few early Yankee ex-pat settlers put down stakes for an American Library. "Way out in the 7th?" Is that supposed to mean something? You probably know this already, but this city is very self-consciously segregrated by neighborhoods, or "Arrondissement"—you can provoke the same sort of laughs here by assigning a particular person or anecdote to the most apt Arrondissement as you can back in San Diego or LA by saying, "You know, they were very El Cajon," or, "So we spent the whole day driving around Burbank!" It helps in pigeon-holing and type-casting people and places. We are in the 6th, and that is somewhat like being in a fancy, happening part of town.

We spent most of Saturday sitting in the American Library, which is just what it sounds like, a non-descript little cave of a place, very like the shabby, over-crowded and under-decorated examples we live with in Southern California. Here it is a real boon. The staff say hello to you in English, and of course almost all of the books are in English, too. I wouldn't mind if they said hello in French, it is having all the books (and movies and CDs) in English that is nice. We can buy no more books, really, because we are so over-stuffed already. So it is wonderful to borrow them, and then return them.

I took advantage of our time there to read my first Elmore Leonard novel, Riding the Rap, and it was very good, especially the way I woke up the next morning and it seemed like I'd seen a very good movie the night before, not finished a very good book. Barely 300 pages, pretty big type. He only shows you the things a movie would show you, but adds in a few thoughts for his characters which give you the insights only a really good movie could. I was impressed with it as a movie. And with the spareness of the writing, although any shock from this, which I was sort of expecting just because I've read a couple of things about how precise and spare and really good Elmore Leonard's writing style is, was snuffed out because I'm in a rut or glut of very spare writers right now (Hemingway, Dick Francis, Daishell Hammet were my last three). In fact, he was sort of a let down compared to Hemingway and Hammet.

The drinks at the Bar Hemingway at the Ritz here are very good, but damned expensive, and the whole thing feels a bit like a Tommy Bahama's with booze. We spent 170, 180 Euros total on maybe six drinks and four tiny plates of tapas. But damn good drinks. I just asked the waitress, who was very nice, what she thought I should have next, and she always had an excellent follow up, though I veered from her plan once and ordered a Mojito and it was damn good, but I could see her point and then followed her advice on the next one. We met a nice couple from Pittsburgh, over here for his Fiftieth birthday on a surprise trip she planned. This was almost a month ago, the Monday night before Valentine's day.

This is becomming very journal-y.

One thing that is nice in reading the novel by Leonard is the sensation received reading a contemporary book that has a plot and yet is intelligent with very specific characters and an underlying moral force that is neither cynical nor treacle-y. A contemporary book that hinnges on plot. That specifically avoids the lyric, the writerly, the high-falutin'.

Sells well, too.


At mardi, mars 14, 2006, Blogger Mr Goodson said...


I envy you just starting your Elmore Leonard reading. Cause I've read them ALL. Including all the westerns. I started with one that theyv'e made two bad movies out of. The Bounce. Recently with Owen Wilson. Book good, movie bad. but when someone has the sense to try and distill what Leonard does well, the no nonsense, realist, protagonist. You get great flicks. Raylan Givens hasn't been done yet. Hombre, Mr Majestic, Joe Kidd, The Tall T get it right. Cool, I can read reviews of Leonard books now.


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