Book Review: "How to be a Parisian Wherever You Are," by Anne Berest, Audrey Diwan, Caroline de Maigret and Sophie Mas
Sometimes readers just need to read a book that makes them laugh, or at least smile all the way through it. "How to be a Parisian Wherever You Are," written by four French women, is just such a book. The humor here is not of the raucous hilarity kind, but more of a subtle tongue-in-cheek and highly mischievous kind. And each type of humor, the book says, "has its own color and culture," thus words to describe Parisian humor, range from "sarcastic" to "prone to joyous despair," to being extremely being fond of paradox. It can be self-deprecating and snobbish at the same time. Certainly all of these qualities are found in this book, and the complexity of wit is reflected in the fabulous photos, drawings and aphorisms through the book.
When writing of the much flouted Parisian "au natural" look, the authors tell us that this unadulterated look "is the fruit of hard labor, meticulously passed down from generation to generation," then goes on to elucidate ways to achieve such Parisian things as the organized dishevelment of hair, natural appearing skin treated with amazing kitchen concoctions, all enhanced by strategies of makeup application.
But the book deals with much more than simply the Parisian exterior. There are chapters that deal with lifestyle as well, such as "Kiss and Play," "Being Naked," and "How to Make Him Think You Have a Lover." A chapter called "Separate Bedrooms" is followed by chapters about Parisian motherhood, pregnancy, and driving styles ("Her Own Highway Code"). Many of the two- to four-page chapters simply have snappy titles for traits that cannot be categorized. In one such chapter steeped in mischief, authors tell readers how to keep up the appearance of Parisian coolness. "Never wear your glasses, especially if you're short sighted," and then this quintessential example: "Always look as if you are gazing at the sunset. Even during rush hour in the Metro. Even when you're picking up frozen pizza from the supermarket." Picture that!
Reviewed by Susan Lang, Peregrine Book Company event coordinator