A Writer’s Paris by Eric Maisel

Paris is probably the one place on earth where, if you were to mention the name, someone would start salivating with the desire to go there.  The city of romance has drawn artsy types (I’ll include myself in this category) for centuries.  I figured this book would be a great way to get a plan of attack for handling a place that is built up by, well every artist ever, and not be disappointed.

Well, after wading through almost all of it, I have to say I wish I’d written down all the people and places I’ve come across.  This little book is definitely designed for the aspiring writer.  Cassie, consider it for senior seminar next year?  Maisel spends 34 ‘chapters’ discussing the various artistic and elegant qualities that every writer should experience while living in Paris.  And I would suggest reading with a pen and paper in hand; make one list of parks, one of places, and one of people.  The cultural and intellectual history of modern France is slowly squeezed through the encouragement (13 Three Week Books, 22 Ideas For A Novel) that every writer needs, but even now hunting through the anecdotes and advice I cannot find  the name of that little rooftop park I read about yesterday. (It is in the 12th arrondissement, the Bois de Vincennes, and called the Promenade Plantée.)

Several of the chapters also discuss making the financial aspects of living in Paris a possibility: 16 The Doable Dream (housing suggestions), as well as all of the appendix sections are helpful, even though the information may be a few years outdated.  But the thing that struck me the most is the idea of doing nothing, enjoying the nontraditional aspects of Paris.

Maisel deified the city’s many parks, showing the reader a few of the important ones as well as several off the beaten track.  19 Gay Mayors discusses the famous Delanoë,  mayor of Paris who made it again legal to (gasp!) sit on the lawns of Paris.

Maisel does very little organization for someone actually hoping to experience tourist Paris on purpose, as 7 Hemingway Slept Here points out: be less tourist, more artist.  The point is going there to write, to live in the shadow of the greatest minds of all time and force yourself into a miniature apartment and out onto paper.  If you’re not big on writing, don’t necessarily skip those chapters.  You may miss out on the Buddhist idea of monkey mind, a common cognitive state of mental chatter and clutter which can impede your enjoyment of Paris, the Musée du Vieux Monmartre or the advice to find your own local café instead of spending all day tracking the haunts of long-dead intellectuals.

There certainly is a therapeutic aspect of this book that was interestingly enough, calming about my own trip to New Zealand.  Anyone embarking on a longer trip should at least skim through this volume if only for its tips of surviving apartments that your pocket can afford but perhaps your sanity cannot (perhaps use some pillows  and candles to make the bathtub into a couch).  Bunker in for the lectures about how often you should write by substituting it for some other pleasure like trying new foods, learning the language or exploring a different bus route.  When I get my list of artists to read, view, and study in each of the Parisian parks I am to explore, I’ll let you know.  Still wading through the morale boosting chapters at the end. (Yes, I know venturing off on my own is ludicrous, but I’m going anyway.  Just not Paris until the Spring with my mother.)

So if Maisel suggests that his first thoughts upon entering Paris are Where do I want to write, then what do I want my first thought to be when I wake up in a new place?  For me I think it would be Where can I get a good view?

What would you do first?


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