ON WRITING

“It’s very easy to quit during the first ten years of writing. Nobody cares whether you write or not, and it’s very hard to write when nobody cares one way or the other. You can’t get fired if you don’t write, and most of the time you don’t get rewarded if you do. But don’t quit.” Andre Dubus

Monday, 16 November 2015

Vive la France! #BooktagsBlogHop. My book this week: Paris Hangover by Kirsten Lobe

Okay, I've been right off writing ever since I heard about those #ParisAttacks on Friday 13th. Like many others, it took my breath away, leaving me no motivation to do what seemed frivolous things, like write for #NaNoWriMo or prepare a blog post. Then blogger friend Toi Thomas reminded me that today is the day I write about a book I've read recently. At first I thought I can't do this, then I thought, yes, I can. So everybody, and Toi, I'm sorry if this is going to be a little outside the square, but I'm presenting my reading my way.
Booktagbloghop
Lobe tells us in a dedication at the beginning of the book that: "...mother taught me to believe in the words of Henry David Thoreau: 'Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined.'"

Well, we saw on Friday 13th, that not everybody accepts the dreams we follow, seeing watching a game at a football stadium, eating at restaurants, walking down the beautiful Parisian streets, watching a rock concert where an American band was performing, are things to die for. Those 'soldiers' mowing down innocents with Kalashnikovs then blowing themselves and others away with suicide bombs obviously thought that dream of living and loving in Paris was anathema.

My favourite author, Ernest Hemingway, has a few lines in The Sun Also Rises, where he says, 'Fake European standards have ruined you. You drink yourself to death. You become obsessed with sex. You spend all your time talking, not working...You hang around cafes.'

That might sound like Hem would be on the side of the suicide bombers on Friday, but no, no one liked hanging around cafes quite as much as he did, so don't take it out of context. I deliberately included it as I think that it is a radical opinion of how Westerners enjoy themselves. Didn't we all think that hanging around cafes was not an action punishable by death? Until Friday, that is.

Which brings me back to Paris Hangover, the book I'm supposed to be talking about today. Okay, not exactly ISIS-preferred reading!


Image result for paris hangover kirsten lobeDefinitely women's fiction, or chick lit, Lobe writes very autobiographically, so even though this is a work of fiction, it is obviously a pretty true account of her life. The premise (and what she did in her real life), was to ditch her super-glam life and apartment in New York City and relocate to a tiny walk-up Parisian apartment in Saint Germain. Fleeing her Big Shot boyfriend, the main character, Klein, starts over in Paris, plunging into the mysterious world of Gallic Men. She lives a life full of Moet and Gauloises, dating Frenchmen and waking up with a hangover most mornings.

Klein/Lobe describes her life in her chosen city: 'Living in Paris is an experience like no other. It's like being on a ride at an amusement park: wildly exciting, a bit scary, a little overpriced.' 

As she settles into her new apartment she considers her dream:
"This dream has the perfect soundtrack. To awaken each morning to the sound of doves cooing and church bells ringing. C'mon, it doesn't get any more beautiful than that...The first sounds I hear as I come into consciousness are usually the tender voices of mothers and their children, up early and out on their morning outing to the boulangerie down the street to buy brioche and croissants. The gentle, 'Maman...' followed by, 'Comment, ma cherie?' is like music.'
On re-reading this passage, I couldn't help wonder how Parisian mothers spoke to their children on Friday 14th. 'The President has asked us to stay indoors today, cherie. Something bad has happened.'

But back to Klein. This American in Paris never had it so good--vin blanc at Cafe de Flore, painting in a garret, afternoons in the Jardins du Luxembourg--or so bad. But Klein's passion for France and its men allows her to press on through some dastardly experiences.

There's something for everyone in this book. It's first and foremost a love story to Paris and its literary giants. Lobe peppers her story with quotes from French philosophers, French poets, and French writers. One of my favourites is her quote from Marcel Proust:
'We are not provided with wisdom, we must discover it for ourselves, after a journey through the wilderness, which no one can take for us, an effort which no one can spare us, for our wisdom is the point of view from which we come at last to regard the world.' 
Sadly, Friday's attackers' wisdom must be questioned. Have they discovered wisdom for themselves, where they see executing innocent civilians as somehow more holy than attending a rock concert or hanging around cafes, or have they been brainwashed into a point of view?

My feelings for Paris/France are not a well-kept secret. Tonight I will stand in solidarity with them at a special event in front of our City Hall, which once again will be bathed in the tricolour.

Books set in Paris are always so full of life and love, which is why I read so many, and am working on writing one myself. Thank you Kirsten Lobe for this quirky little love story to Paris. I hope you are safe in your chosen city!

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21 comments:

  1. I know exactly what you mean. Completely paralysed. Been sitting watching the news round the clock here.

    The strange thing is - coffee and coffeehouse culture started with the Middle East and is an integral part of the present day scene too. So much of what the nutcases are attacking/destroying is part and parcel of the ME heritage! It's beyond all human understanding.

    The book sounds interesting, well anything with Paris in it is a feast, moveable or not...hope this week goes better than the last.

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    1. 'Nutcases'. You said it Nila. Love that dissertation on the coffeehouse culture in the ME. Lest we forget...

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  2. It's all so confusing and so very sad. Yes, this weekend was very hard.

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  3. Just horrible what happened. So many lives cut short. Sadly, there's only one way to stop people like that.

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    1. Yep. Bomb them Alex, I guess you mean. But they'll only pop up in another guise elsewhere.

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  4. It's a tragic and confusing time, this age we live in. Terrorism aims to create chaos through terror and uncertainty, to erode our feelings of security, to destroy our sense of safety, and to replace them with fear. And they succeed, time and time again. What feels most tragic for me is how fear has taken over since Friday. Fear, and hatred, are everywhere we look. It saddens me to see the lines of Us and Them drawn ever thicker, ever deeper. Darkness cannot be destroyed by darkness; only light can do that. Hatred cannot be destroyed by hatred; only love can do that. (A tall order, I know. But if we can't do it, then we're as bad as them.)

    Loved the quotes you shared here. It sounds like an interesting read, though chick-lit is not my genre of choice... But perhaps worth a try ;)
    Guilie @ Quiet Laughter

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    1. As much as we don't like to say it, and Australia is terribly Politically Correct, there is an Us Vs Them. Pretty much 100% of terrorism is from fundamental Islam, a violent arm of a peaceful religion. It's the Crusades in reverse.

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  5. Denise, this is not just a beautiful book review but a loving tribute to a beautiful city. My prayer is they recover, they come out even more strong and even more in love with life than before. I am saddened most by anyone of any creed or belief who cannot allow others to love life. It is a gift and it was given to us to live, to love, and to share. I know people in the US who are always judging others because they live in a way they don't "approve" of. Certainly not as tragic and terrible as killing others for the same, but in a way, a bit of a person's soul is chipped away whenever a judging finger or word is said. If anything, I have taken from this tragedy a renewed vigor for life and for being present in the here and not. We aren't promised tomorrow. We should get out from behind our computers and phones and LIVE the life we're given. Heck, if I'm going out, I want to be be taken out doing something I love, even if it's just reading a novel on the beach!

    Cheers! xo
    Jen

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    1. I agree that we need a break from our computers and to reconnect with life. No matter where we go, everyone has their nose in their phone, buds in their ears listening to music, shutting out the world, or tapping away on laptops and iPads. Let's be present in the here and now for sure, Jen!

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  6. You can spend days watching the depressing news coverage and reading about what it was like to have your life in imminent danger, or you could read something happier and escape. I think it's been proven that all of this news coverage is actually bad for us. It can bring our moods down significantly. So perhaps this escape is exactly what your mind needs!

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    1. All the news coverage might be bad for us, but to my mind it is necessary. I'd hate to think no one wanted to know the ins and outs of what happened. I find inspiration in the Parisian's defiance in the face of atrocities of this scale.

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  7. I've heard what happened, but I haven't jumped into the media accounts yet. It sounds cowardly and horrible for sure. I like the premise of Paris Hangover--having the courage to start over. I'll put it on my TBR list because I don't know much of anything about Paris.

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    1. If you read this book Tamara, you will learn a lot about Paris from a young person's point of view.

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  8. Denise thank you so much for hopping along with me this week and not skipping it. This is exactly why I started this hop. In this trying time, you were able to find: comfort, solice, understanding... I'm not sure exactly what you call it or what you've experienced, but your love and relationship with reading books has made this post and your expression possible.

    I'm totally going to get a copy of Paris Hangover soon.

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    1. Thanks Toi. Without the hop, I wouldn't have showcased this book. It is certainly frivolous, but inspirational as well.

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  9. Well said Denise. I like how you linked the frivolity and happiness in the book to the reasons that ISIS determined to terrorize Paris. Very apt analogy. I am disgusted by the crimes of ISIS. But, a way to show these terrorists that living well (or just enjoying a holiday) is not the enemy of GOD. A shame how religion has been turned into terror.

    You have shown your support for France along with your love of Paris, and a good book. Well done.

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  10. i enjoyed your review and appreciated your commentary and how you tied it all together with Friday's tragedy - showing that those who carried it out are out of touch with reality. Vive la France.

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  11. Hey Denise, you did a beautiful job with this post, thank you! I'd love to read this book, sounds wonderful. And you are so right. This tragedy hit me hard, as senseless death and the terror wrought by bullies with weapons of mass destruction always does. Whether a lone gunman in an elementary school or several with machine guns in a concert hall. It hits me hard in the heart.
    Now I sit and watch my countries politicians blame innocent women and children instead of their own stupid decisions for what is happening. They don't want a solution, they enjoy the war mongering this horrible situation awards them. Put boots on the ground, why, what have we accomplished by killing our own young men in a country that never wanted us there and still doesn't? Sorry, you got me started and I sometimes don't know when to stop. But thanks for having the courage to write about such a decisive issue!

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