A charming, hilarious account of la vie Parisienne as experienced by an observant young American.
Working for an advertising agency while he wrote his first novel (You Lost Me There, 2010), Baldwin discovered some very French things about office life in Paris: You have to eat lunch, because the company docks a portion of your pay and returns it to you as meal coupons. Aggressively sexual comments and jokes about Jews or blacks are fine, and anyone offended by them is being “pay-say” (PC, the dreaded politically correct). It’s virtually impossible to get fired, even if you rarely show up, do no work and are thoroughly obnoxious. The author also discovered that French banks seem never to have heard of credit cards, and although he and his wife qualified as legal residents for health-insurance coverage, the cards permitting them to actually use the insurance didn’t arrive until a month before they left. Nonetheless, despite tight finances and loud construction work around their apartment, Baldwin fell in love just like everyone else. “Dude, Paris,” said a friend after the author explained that it took him 15 minutes to buy a bottle of water in a café because the woman in front of him in line wanted to know what made the salad taste so good, which required the input of two employees and a phone call to the manager. “Honestly, nothing comes close.” As the dude suggests, the author and his friends were not so long out of college—he turned 31 while he was there in the spring of 2008—and still settling into adult life. There were lots of parties, and work at the ad agency apparently consisted mostly of jetting around meeting celebrities for the Louis Vuitton account. Baldwin, a witty and polished writer, never pretends to be doing more than taking snapshots, but his vivid impressions of Paris and its people (expats included) are most engaging.
Great fun and surprisingly touching.