Sunday, May 25, 2008

Dude, where's my posse?

Today was a beautiful, beautiful day--absolutely perfect as far as Memorial Day weekends go. I got my parade in, and it was lovely and moving and quintessential Americana. I even finished my light, fluffy read and it was quite enjoyable indeed. I put the iPod on shuffle earlier today and came up with the best playlist in a long time--which, of course, I will post very soon.

I am feeling relaxed, chill, content--the first time in a loooooong time I've allowed myself to feel this way. And I'm not about to give up that feeling, either. Maybe it's because the book I just read was so good. I started reading it last night, picked it up after the parade this afternoon, and finished it twenty minutes ago.

When a book absorbs me for that long, I literally get transported to the setting of the book. And what better place to be transported to than Paris?

A Town Like Paris starts off in a somewhat cliched manner. Bryce Corbett, our hero, is an Aussie ex-pat working for Sky News in London. He is having trouble recovering from the end of a nine-year relationship with his high school sweetie. He hates London, and hates his job.

So what is a man in his late twenties to do when he is disgruntled with life? He fakes portions of his resume, sends it to a company based in Paris, and gets called for an interview. What was intended to be an all-expenses-paid jaunt to the City of Light just for the sake of skipping work for a day unexpectedly leads to an offer, followed by a move to Paris.

Our hero then moves to an apartment in the Marais, complete with tacky 1970's furniture and 1870's orange fabric lining the walls. When he first moves in, Corbett experiences culture shock and has trouble figuring out his way through such French customs as the "ticket restaurants", that is, the eight-Euro allowance that some employers provide for their staff to have lunch at a restaurant. Corbett marvels at how his company won't let him eat lunch at a desk, but actually makes him take an hour--a WHOLE hour--to eat a good meal at a restaurant.

At first, Corbett is very lonely in his new surroundings, and starts to question the wisdom of his move. Then the "Paris Posse", a group of ex-pats of various nationalities, enters the picture, and the book really takes off. As I read the anecdotes of the group's adventures, from their gatherings at their favorite bar, Le Connetable, to members of the group forming a band, I felt like I was reliving my college days. See, I was in a posse of my own, and we always celebrated birthdays, holidays, and just plain celebrated, together. We were a tight circle, my posse and I.

However, our little circle is not the same anymore. There have been breakups and new couplings. Some members have moved far away. Others are busy with their children. And a couple of them have just drifted apart. I guess that's a part of maturity, not having to rely on your posse as much as you get older.

And this is what happens as the book continues--Corbett gets older, and realizes he doesn't want to be 40 and dancing in clubs, trying to recapture his youth. He meets, and falls in love with, a showgirl from the Lido, one of Paris's most legendary nightclubs. I was hoping for some more backstage stories from the Lido--one chapter is devoted to them--but they aren't all that exciting. In fact, the book slows down a little once his relationship with "the Showgirl" develops. That's not to say that it's terrible; it's not. I just really felt like I was recapturing my youth as I read the stories about going to Cannes and weekend trips to Ibiza.

Earlier in the novel, Corbett said that his goal was "to suck the marrow out of life." If this book is any indication, it looks like he did just that. I couldn't put the book down because I wanted to see what other adventures he got into, but then I didn't put it down because I want to see how he managed to woo the Showgirl. Hey, if a guy can date a showgirl from the Lido, I don't know what sucking the marrow out of life is.

I must admit that I was partial to this novel because I myself lived in Paris for a short while. OK, it was a semester abroad, but it was long enough that I formed my own "Paris Posse" and I remain very good friends with two of those posse members. I felt as if I was walking those Paris streets again, Corbett's descriptions were so vivid and spot-on.

And now, as this second day of my three-day weekend draws to a close, I am left to choose another book to read. After all, this is the unofficial start of summer, and the official start of my major book reading season. I'm looking for another light read. I think I'll go to my bookcase this time and select something I haven't read yet. Or maybe I'll reread an old favorite. I have a few possibilities in mind; I'll let you know what they are!


Anonymous said...

Hi Kitten,
You seem to be confused about A Town Like Paris. The book is not a novel. Bryce Corbett is a real person and his book is non-fiction. ie he really is as creepy as he appears in the book. I'm afraid A Town Like Paris left me cold. I wanted something with more verve and style. Corbett struck me as quite arrogant when he had no reason to be. He didn't do Paris any justice at all.

Kitten said...

Hi Rachel,

Thanks very much for your comment and your opinion. Feedback like yours is what I was hoping to get from this blog--I am so happy to now engage in debate!

I was well aware that A Town Like Paris was a memoir, not a novel. I apologize if my writing style made you think otherwise. I assume that you are also a native Aussie, since you signed that you are from Perth, so I can understand your strong feelings toward Corbett.

I really viewed the book more as a study in human nature, as opposed to an examination of Paris itself. Granted, when I lived in Paris, it was 12 years ago during a semester abroad; I was 20 then, and only lived there for a matter of months. I can honestly say that I only got a taste of the city after four months, and did not receive its full flavor.

I will also admit that Corbett's immaturity did put me off at times, especially given all of his carousing in bars earlier in the book.

Once again, thanks for your commentary, Rachel. Please visit again.