A winning and witty collection offering humor and insight into the French way of life.

FRENCH LIKE MOI

A MIDWESTERNER IN PARIS

A volume of essays recounts the joys and difficulties of a Midwestern college professor’s move to Paris.

On sabbatical from teaching, Carpenter moved with his wife and daughter all the way from Minnesota to Paris. After much bureaucratic hubbub, they bought a tiny apartment and set about acclimating to the Parisian way of life. No stranger to the French but a relative newcomer to their daily routines, the author highlights the captivating contrasts between his Midwestern home and his adopted city in 18 essays and three sections: “Came,” “Saw,” and “Conquered.” Each essay focuses on a different element of Parisian life, from the relative opulence of American return policies to the ubiquity of protests and demonstrations. Carpenter’s insights are humorous and deftly crafted, interweaving perceptive details about the French language with curious incidents and stirring events. While the tone is light, the author occasionally ventures into serious territory, most effectively in his discussion of terrorism and the national climate. While his more solemn moments can verge on flippancy, Carpenter generally returns readers to a place of thoughtful consideration. One of the strongest, most innovative passages comes in a chapter recalling the difficult process of raising funds and securing approvals for apartment building improvements. The author convincingly compares this process to the drama of an opera and goes so far as to provide the beginnings of a libretto. Most of his essays are also accompanied by debut illustrator Golden’s charming sketches, which lend additional intrigue to Carpenter’s fluid scenes. Although perhaps not groundbreaking in its subject matter or style, the book is a delightful read, presenting essays filled with levity and grace.

A winning and witty collection offering humor and insight into the French way of life.

Pub Date: July 7, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-60952-183-7

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Travelers' Tales

Review Posted Online: Feb. 21, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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A virtuoso performance and an ode to an undervalued medium created by two talented artists.

A WEALTH OF PIGEONS

A CARTOON COLLECTION

The veteran actor, comedian, and banjo player teams up with the acclaimed illustrator to create a unique book of cartoons that communicates their personalities.

Martin, also a prolific author, has always been intrigued by the cartoons strewn throughout the pages of the New Yorker. So when he was presented with the opportunity to work with Bliss, who has been a staff cartoonist at the magazine since 1997, he seized the moment. “The idea of a one-panel image with or without a caption mystified me,” he writes. “I felt like, yeah, sometimes I’m funny, but there are these other weird freaks who are actually funny.” Once the duo agreed to work together, they established their creative process, which consisted of working forward and backward: “Forwards was me conceiving of several cartoon images and captions, and Harry would select his favorites; backwards was Harry sending me sketched or fully drawn cartoons for dialogue or banners.” Sometimes, he writes, “the perfect joke occurs two seconds before deadline.” There are several cartoons depicting this method, including a humorous multipanel piece highlighting their first meeting called “They Meet,” in which Martin thinks to himself, “He’ll never be able to translate my delicate and finely honed droll notions.” In the next panel, Bliss thinks, “I’m sure he won’t understand that the comic art form is way more subtle than his blunt-force humor.” The team collaborated for a year and created 150 cartoons featuring an array of topics, “from dogs and cats to outer space and art museums.” A witty creation of a bovine family sitting down to a gourmet meal and one of Dumbo getting his comeuppance highlight the duo’s comedic talent. What also makes this project successful is the team’s keen understanding of human behavior as viewed through their unconventional comedic minds.

A virtuoso performance and an ode to an undervalued medium created by two talented artists.

Pub Date: Nov. 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-26289-9

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Celadon Books

Review Posted Online: Aug. 31, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2020

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A handful of pearls amid a pile of empty oyster shells.

THE COMFORT BOOK

Bestselling author Haig offers a book’s worth of apothegms to serve as guides to issues ranging from disquietude to self-acceptance.

Like many collections of this sort—terse snippets of advice, from the everyday to the cosmic—some parts will hit home with surprising insight, some will feel like old hat, and others will come across as disposable or incomprehensible. Years ago, Haig experienced an extended period of suicidal depression, so he comes at many of these topics—pain, hope, self-worth, contentment—from a hard-won perspective. This makes some of the material worthy of a second look, even when it feels runic or contrary to experience. The author’s words are instigations, hopeful first steps toward illumination. Most chapters are only a few sentences long, the longest running for three pages. Much is left unsaid and left up to readers to dissect. On being lost, Haig recounts an episode with his father when they got turned around in a forest in France. His father said to him, “If we keep going in a straight line we’ll get out of here.” He was correct, a bit of wisdom Haig turned to during his depression when he focused on moving forward: “It is important to remember the bottom of the valley never has the clearest view. And that sometimes all you need to do in order to rise up again is to keep moving forward.” Many aphorisms sound right, if hardly groundbreaking—e.g., a quick route to happiness is making someone else happy; “No is a good word. It keeps you sane. In an age of overload, no is really yes. It is yes to having space you need to live”; “External events are neutral. They only gain positive or negative value the moment they enter our mind.” Haig’s fans may enjoy this one, but others should take a pass.

A handful of pearls amid a pile of empty oyster shells.

Pub Date: July 6, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-14-313666-8

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Penguin Life

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2021

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