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For me, the holidays are for catching up on correspondence: in particular, someone else’s. These past weeks, I’ve been reading letters between Groucho Marx and T.S. Eliot collected in The Groucho Letters. Although they might sound like unlikely correspondents, in the 1960s they exchanged a series of letters, autographed photos and quips about cigars: (“I […]
Tango classes started later in the fall than you might expect, like around now, in November. The dance studio was on the third floor (walk up) of an eighteenth-century building in the northern-most part of Paris, with scarred hard wood floors and tall windows gone dark by the time class started (8:30 p.m.). It was […]
We could have stood there for days on the shore waiting for one of us to speak: the fisherwoman full of purpose with sharp, dark eyes fixed on the top of her fishing pole, flashing silver in the sun, and just beyond the jewel-green sea, waiting for the tug of the pole whose sudden bend […]
Inimitable street artist Bansky wrote in Wall and Peace, “Speak softly, but carry a big can of paint,” and up and down the rue Dénoyez in the twentieth arrondissement in the Belleville neighborhood, you get palpable sense of this idea. The street is one big moving mural—illustrations, tags and collages cover the walls of buildings […]
A couple weeks ago I got into a cab (grey 2008 Toyota, three hubcaps, broken air conditioning) and the radio was on and it was the World Cup match between Germany and Portugal and the commentators were commenting as fast as they could in French about the defense strategy of the Germans when, twelve minutes […]
Long before salons were a mecca of hair care products, swanky swivel chairs, and cosmetology services with mysterious and complicated names, the salon (beginning in the sixteenth century in Europe) was a hot spot for philosophical debates, intellectual discussions and general confabs of all sorts and traditionally—and quite exclusively—hosted by women in their homes. Not […]
In Chapter Nine of The Alice B. Toklas Cook Book, “Little-known French Dishes Suitable for American and British Kitchens,” there are more than fifty recipes including one for devilled smelts, a fish dish made with two kinds of mustard and anchovy paste, and a violet soufflé dessert doused with a substantial tablespoon of Kummel, a […]
Just in time for lettuce leaves and diets, January is high season in France for enjoying a slice or three of la galette des rois, or King’s Cake, made with flaky puff pastry and a rich filling of frangipane (with some variations on the recipe). Although the cake is officially for the celebration of Epiphany […]
For all of the bohemian brouhaha of 1920s Paris, a woman still had to wear a hat to be seated in the main room of the popular and posh brasserie La Rotonde. It follows that climbing up on tables to sing bawdy, comic songs in cabarets or posing nude for artists might not be the […]
One question that has never haunted me is if there’s a specific season or reason for drinking Champagne. In general, it seems that writers, the French, and French writers totally get this idea. One of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s characters threatens, “I’ll drink your Champagne. I’ll drink every drop of it, I don’t care if it […]
It’s September and everyone in Paris is diving into la rentrée littéraire; much more than just a catchy, catch-all phrase, it is a way of life that roughly translates as “a specific time in very late summer when all of France comes back after summer vacation to present, celebrate and otherwise promote newly published books […]
“Gertrude Stein is so fly,” a friend said over a cup of coffee the other day. It was hard to know how to respond to her and the best way seemed to go for a second cup. A lot has been said about the brilliant and formidable grande dame of modern prose over the past […]
I Drifted Into Bookselling “Like many of my compatriots, I am something of a tumbleweed drifting in the wind,” George Whitman, founder of Shakespeare and Company Bookshop, told The Paris Magazine (first published by the shop in 1967). “I drifted into bookselling for no better reason than a passion for books except for the classical […]
It takes a special kind of person for whom you can toss together in the same sentence the words “gambol,” “Les Folies Bergères” and “poor girl from Saint Louis who at nineteen charmed and otherwise seriously seduced the art and theater scene in 1920s Paris with her seductive combination of beauty, sensuality, whimsy and physical […]
Cocktails in Springtime Paris kkkkk Long before destination drinking had a moniker, Paris was already a hot toddy hot spot in the 1920s and 1930s. Drinks like the Whiz Bang, Green Hat, Sidecar, Blue Bird and Fog Horn were in circulation among the haute cocktail crowd and local lushes at places like the Ritz Paris, […]
A little lexicon to keep your dance card full.
A post-Capodanno apocalyptic linguistic debrief of common Camorristi terms from Napoli.
In Possum Living, Dolly Freed writes beautifully about a childhood spent living frugally with her father on a half-acre lot just outside of Philadelphia. During this time, she mastered the complicated task of distillation, providing her readers with a recipe for basic moonshine must, as well as variations like dandelion wine and sugar beet liquor. Our […]
A classic drink for your holiday season.
My friend Krista and I had just left Shakespeare and Company for drinks on the Île Saint-Louis, a hop, slip and a pratfall from the bookshop. It was the night for Vespers, not prayers at nearby Notre-Dame, but libations, the potent James Bond-martini-kind of Vesper. Three parts gin, one part vodka, a dash of Lillet […]
Calamity and coffee go together and late-eighteenth century France was pretty much swimming in both.
Much more genius is needed to make love than to command an army.
Looking for an essay woman, bed soon.
Borges wrote, “I have always imagined that paradise will be a kind of library,” and he may have imagined it to be something like La Bibliothèque Mazarine.
Legends, like books and liquor, can be dizzying, sometimes dangerous and often addictive.