You Don’t Know Paris Jack, Son

I was lucky enough to receive a paperback review copy of Paris I Love You but You’re Bringing Me Down by Rosecrans Baldwin from Books on Tap, Gabrielle Gantz from gabriellegantz.com and Picador USA.

The first thing that struck me about this book is how upbeat the circumstances seemed to be to necessitate Baldwin writing a memoir. Most of the recent memoirs that I have devoured were inspired by death, depression, cancer, sexual abuse, emotional abuse, divorce, unhappiness, questioning of religion, distant parenting, more distant parenting, more death…

Therefore, the the idea of moving to Paris seemed to make for a much happier experience. And for the most part, it did. Sure, Baldwin faces many difficulties in Paris: culture shock, language difficulties, bizarre office rituals, construction at all times of the day, (hard to feel sorry for you on that score, buddy), bureaucracy, Paris Flu, friends with difficult social lives, the concept that Paris the Idea can never live up to Paris the Reality. But despite these hardships, the memoir maintains a light and happy tone throughout. Paris never brings Rosecrans Baldwin down. Indeed, it even inspired him to write his novel, and then, later, to write this book. Win win!

Now perhaps I was disadvantaged, having never actually been to Paris, and not having expectations to deflate. Indeed, I will learn from this book that if I am ever to visit, or hopefully, like Baldwin, live in Paris, I will try to temper my desires to be in the most romantic, picturesque city in the whole world. Yet, strangely, most of the Paris-bashing comes from the Parisians themselves. Baldwin seemed to grow and be enriched by his experience of working in an advertising agency, communicating in a foreign language, despite not being able to speak good French upon his departure. Certainly, it is hard to feel sorry for Baldwin, with his vibrant social life, attending Fashion events and parties with the creme de la creme in this home away from home.

So even though I never really understood why Paris was bringing Baldwin down, (quite possibly because his wife Rachel never felt comfortable in the city, affecting him greatly.Though, intentionally or not, Baldwin portrayed Rachel as something of a drip), I was thrilled to take the journey with him, and finding a memoir that was life-affirming without first being depressing. I liked Baldwin. His personality shone throughout, and perhaps most importantly, the book never brought me down. I still would love to go to Paris, of course, but with tempered expectations. I would be Up for that.

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