How to Be Parisian Wherever You Are Review and Book Challenge

“Trust firmly in your luck, cling to your happiness and dare to take risks. They will see you and learn to accept you.”

-Rene Char, The Dawn Breakers

A few months ago I bought How to Be Parisian Wherever You Are: Love, Style and Bad Habits by Parisians and life-long best friends Anne Berest, Audrey Diwan, Caroline de Maigret and Sophie Mas. I bought the book on a whim and I decided I’d place it on the table next to me on the couch and read it if I ever got bored. I didn’t think much of it, I bought it mainly for the aphorisms…

But recently, I read the whole book cover to cover.

How to Be Parisian revealed that I am in some ways actually pretty Parisienne:

  1. I never wear make-up anymore, even to work, which I am pretty proud of,
  2. I’ll never admit (that sometimes I wear powder and a little rouge) when I’ve fibbed a little,
  3. I never blow-dry my hair or color it,
  4. I am always hiding behind a pair of oversized sunglasses,
  5. I don’t have a TV in my bedroom,
  6. And I wear a lot of black basics, because, after all:

Women who wear black live colourful lives.

-Neiman Marcus

A lot of this sounds like the habits of a very lazy girl. But not necessarily. In my mind these are the habits of a girl that has her priorities straight and knows who she is. In a nutshell, this is the driving force behind How to Be Parisian, which begins on page 3 with a series of Parisienne APHORISMS. Here is a selection of my favorites:

“Find ‘your’ perfume before you turn thirty…one must live with the opposite sex, not against them…wear a black bra under your white blouse…go to the theater, to museums, and to concerts as often as possible: it gives you a healthy glow…be your own knight in shining armorfashion rules the world….always be fuckable….your look should always have one thing undone…”

The ladies also include an ongoing list of beauty tips. Rinse your hair with white wine vinegar to make it shinier and keep a pumice stone in the shower. Rub a juiced lemon across your nails to make them stronger and brush your teeth with baking soda once a week to whiten them. We’ll see if these work…

But all in all the Parisenne is not so different from us. She has her inglorious moments. Her tights rip on the way to important job interview and she gets pimples. Try to find a woman in the world whose tights haven’t run at a crucial moment in her life. After all, the Parisinne is no superhuman no matter what she may think.

For the record there are some bits of this book that are as as self-indulgent as other bits are genuine. Take it all with a grain of salt. While THE 6:00 P.M. DEBATE: THE GYM section is authentically funny and relatable, HOW TO DESTABILIZE A MAN is just plain absurd. But like the Parisienne, we must take the book’s flaws along with its perfections.

The ladies of How to Be Parisian advise that we know our faults and display them as a unique part of ourselves. Therein lies our beauty. Taken in its entirety How to Be Parisian is a love letter to womanhood.

But what’s really inspired me is the literature they discuss throughout the book. How to Be a Parisian authors place an emphasis on the importance of being a well-read woman, as inwardly svelte as she is on the outside.

Here is an excerpt from pg. 104, section WHEN YOU CAN HAVE ANYTHING:

“She doesn’t carry an enormous designer bag.

But she might have a newspaper under her arm.

She might mention Sartre or Foucault in a conversation.

It’s her personality that sparkles and nothing else: 

the signs of intellectual wealth.”

So in the spirit of How to Be a Parisian I’ve set myself a challenge for 2017. I will read every book they mention throughout the book, if I can find it in print in English, starting with the list on page 97, section AND THEN THERE ARE THE BOOKS YOU HAVE READ, LOVED, AND WHICH ARE A PART OF YOUR IDENTITY:

The Stranger by Albert Camus

The Elementary Particles by Michel Houellebecq

Belle du Seigneur by Albert Cohen

Bonjour Tristesse by Francoise Sagan

Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert

Foam of the Daze by Boris Vian

Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov

The Flowers of Evil by Charles Baudelaire

Journey to the End of the Night by Louis-Ferdinance Celine

Swann’s Way by Marcel Proust

Other books mentioned:

The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides (March)

Adieux: A Farewell to Sartre by Simone de Beauvoirs

The Jewels by Charles Baudelaire

The Dawn Breakers by Rene Char

In Search of Lost Time by Marcel Proust

And remember ladies: 

“The only beautiful eyes are those that look at you with tenderness.”

-Coco Chanel

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Fiction is important…and here’s why

It’s been a while since I contributed to my blog. I’ve been reading a lot lately and I felt a bit intimidated and uninspired. The holidays were a bit busy and at the beginning of January I started a new job (huzzah!). But I’m back now and I have some things to say.

I recently stumbled (by way of my mom-in-law Lynn) on a Facebook post that I just haven’t been able to shake. The post is a typical FB challenge:

“Of all your friends and family, identify (to yourself) twelve of them that read books on a regular basis. I’m not talking about the latest romance, mystery, or thriller novels on the best-sellers lists, but rather books about people, history, art, science, technology, philosophy, economics, etc.”

And for the most part I can get behind that. I’m a big reader and I’m a proponent of others reading. I don’t love the aggressiveness and judgement inherent in the post but I get where its coming from. And for the record, I can list 12 people that I know that read books of a wide variety. But, I don’t agree that to be a contributing member of society, to be a well-read person, and to be informed, articulate, etc you absolutely have to read about technology or you can’t read the latest romance or thriller. Reading isn’t the exclusive purview of the intellectual. All reading, any reading, is beneficial and counts as reading and I can’t believe I had to say that.

But again, I’m not 100% sure that’s what he’s saying, until this comment by the poster:

“However, fictional novels don’t do much to inform or affect one’s worldview.”

Here, our paths diverge. This blanket statement is inaccurate, discouraging, and originates, frankly, from someone who practices what he preaches (i.e. he does not read fiction). Or maybe he does and he feels insecure about his library? I’ll admit I proudly display my Man-Booker International Prize Listed books upfront on my bookshelf and relegate my fluffier books to the back rows. But come on, that is a personal choice; there is no need to disparage the reading habits of your friends (your FB friends).

Firstly, not all fiction is exclusively romance novels or bodice-rippers. But if they are, so what? Sometimes they’re fun and if they get people reading, which, frankly, is the point. For example, I’ve always truly enjoy reading historical fiction. My grandmother gave me a copy of Anya Seton’s Katherine about Katherine Swynford when I was in my early teens. Afterwards, I conducted my own independent additional research, which others (ahem) may find “legitimate.” Katherine sparked a lifelong love of history and research, that eventually led to an undergraduate degree in art history and archaeology, a graduate degree in museum studies (which is basically an art history degree) and a six month tenure as a PhD candidate in art history. Today, I can recite the history of the War of the Roses and the Tudor dynasty. All because of a somewhat raunchy novel.

Beyond that, fiction exposes readers to experimental writing styles and grammar, as well as new words, and more besides. Fiction is also capable of teaching readers about different cultures, human experiences and even periods of history that is not otherwise accessible (see The Lives of Others by Neel Mukherjee, A Brief History of Seven Killings by Marlon James or A Strangeness in My Mind by Orhan Pamuk).

It’s also important to keep in mind that not all readers are capable of sitting down to read the latest tome dedicated to the Russian Revolution or Shakespeare; a history or memoir that leans too far towards the academic can be utterly defeating. Other work of nonfiction are likewise too “fluffy” and draw from the narrator’s opinion rather than hard fact if evidence is lacking.

Fiction contributes too to arming its readers with the ways and means to express themselves. Where would we be without satire, for example? In my experience readers of fictions are the best kind of friends, empathetic, articulate, witty and possessed of a moral compass that points true north.

So here is my challenge. To find the most important works of fiction out there today, the ones that will change your perceptions, go beyond the  best-seller lists and actively seek out the books that are making a difference in the world today. Check out the Man Booker Prize website (for example), pick a year, and read all the books on the shortlist. Focus on the books that were not written by an American or not originally published in English, with a narrator of the opposite sex (this is for the men, really), one that doesn’t immediately spark your interest, and dive in.

For the record, I’ve set myself a new challenge. I plan on reading and writing a review for The Gene: An Intimate History Siddhartha Mukherjee. Although I proudly read a fair amount of nonfiction, admittedly its mainly memoirs and histories so I figure I should try to broaden my horizons per the FB rant above. Like I said, I agree with him to some extent.

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A Broke Girl’s Guide to Cheap Theatre: A Quiet January in DC

Here is all the cheap theatre I could find for January in DC. It’s a bit light but rest easy, February is shaping up to be a busy month.

 

Arena Stage (Washington, DC)

ROE– Jan. 12 – Feb. 19

FREE Post Show Discussions (with ticket): Jan. 25, Feb. 1 & 14 at 12pm; Jan. 31 & Feb. 16 at 8pm

SW Nights: Jan. 23 at 8pm

Pay Your Age – Under 30 Program: Reserve in advance!

Student Discounts: 35% off

Read More

My A Christmas Carol Memory Review

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Check out my Broadway World review for Creative Cauldron’s A Christmas Carol Memory here.

Next up for BWW I’m off to see the Washington Christmas Revels: A Nordic Celebration of the Winter Solstice. I’m especially thrilled to be going to review this show because it is the same program that I was in in 2005 as a senior in high school. Going to the Christmas Revels was always a Christmas tradition when I was growing up and prior to being a teen performer I was a child performer in the 1998 Christmas Revels: Celestial Fools (I think thats right). It will be an interesting challenge to review the Christmas Revels; to put aside my preconceptions and be as objective as possible while still having a great time and enjoying a wonderful Christmas tradition.