Friday, June 10, 2011

The Paris Wife

In June, the Club of Books boldly went where few women have gone before:  through the left-hand doorway off the entryway to the Spring Chateau.  Yes, mini grilled cheese sandwiches with fig jam and jalapenos in Near Earth, video art by My Barbarian on an eternal loop in Middle Earth, and Chinese chicken salad, spring rolls, and cupcakes and coffee in Far Earth.  Not to be seen again (by anyone, that is!) for the next two years.

 My Barbarian, The Golden Age, 2007, two-channel video

Paula McLain's The Paris Wife was well-received, garnering somewhere between 7 and 7.5.  The book was interesting, a fast and engaging read, and took the reader on a vintage adventure that roamed from the cafes of Paris, to the bullfighting ring of Pamplona, to private beaches in the South of France, to chalets in the snowy Austrian ranges.  It was with a mixture of envy, amazement, and disgust that most of us for the first time really learned something about Hemingway the man, who, well, seems to be about the same as Hemingway the myth.  No wonder that guys--BC's Tenth Member included--seem to have placed Hemingway on a pedestal:  ultra-masculine, athletic, charming, a literary genius, devilishly handsome, the talk of Paris, cavorting through Europe with the rich and famous.  Was this dude for real?   Unfortunately, in life as in mythology, someone who lives in such an outsized fashion is bound to be met by a tragic ending (and along the way, a wrecked home life, a gigantic ego, alcoholism and depression).  And what about the wife, number one of four--how could she ever stand up (whether in the book or in reality) to a character of Hemingway's magnitude?  Apparently she didn't, or at least not on their summer vacation where Pauline came along as if they were all one big happy family.  More like Barfalona than Cap d'Antibes if you ask El Jefe.  Overall, the book provided a fascinating window into a time and place that were unique in history:  heady, jazzy, exuberant and gluttonous, and we missed it by a good 50 years.  El Jefe also loved the chance to reminisce about her fave spots in the City of Lights . . .

Cafe Bonaparte, Rue Bonaparte, 6e arrondissement

Bar Hemingway, Ritz Hotel, Place Vendome, 1er arrondissement

Centre Pompidou, 4e arrondissement

Jamin Puech, Rue Madame, 6e arrondissement

Our next meeting is Wednesday, July 6.  As everyone surely remembers (right?!) we are reading Phillip Roth's Pulitzer Prize winner, American Pastoral, postponed from last month.  We also picked an August book:  Area 51:  An Uncensored History of America's Top Secret Military Base, by Annie Jacobson.  Meeting location and volunteers to be sent separately.  Until next time, you truly do need to read early and often.  American Pastoral is like 31 Flavors' French Vanilla:  "Costs a bit more, but worth it!"

Baskin-Robbins announced on July 15, 2010, that to make room for some new combinations, five flavors would have to go.  The oldest was French Vanilla:  launched in 1945, it was one of the first flavors offered by Irv Robbins and Burt Baskin.