Saturday, November 03, 2007

Une Française à New York

All I can say is, it's about time.

All my life I've been reading books about American expatriate life in France, written over the centuries. You know the list.

Attempts to find the French literary counterpart to Buchwald or Flanner or Wharton or Sedaris -- i.e., a French expat writing from the US -- always came up emptyhanded. There were informative scholarly tomes analyzing America from a Frenchman's point of view. From Tocqueville to Andre Kaspi to Pascal Baudry, all engrossing social commentary. So.. Cartesian. So..intellectual. So... French! But nothing that I would call sheer entertainment.

Until now. I just finished reading Une Française à New York, by Laurence Haïm. A personal narrative of a young French woman's adaptation to life in the Big Apple, it is witty and fast-paced. Book critics might call it an "entertaining romp." Though it is published in French, it deserves to be translated.

It's sure to be a big hit in France. So why should Americans be interested in reading this book? For one, the old Candid Camera song comes to mind. "It's fun to look at yourself as other people do." Also, by hearing a French person's funny laments about la vie "Made in America," Americans in turn can better understand French culture if they are willing to seek the nuance. Here's the idea: the French read Paris to the Moon and Americans read Une Française à New York -- a little mutual x-ray screening of each other's cultural baggage.

Laurence Haïm leapfrogs over the clichéed myth that all French people think Americans are burger-chomping cowboys. With a sharp journalist's eye and a raconteur's good timing, she tackles with verve and panache the bewildering American customs of dating, cubicle life, real estate agents, workaholics, gym workouts, American "vacations", and, of course, meals.

Hmm -- hey, here's an idea! Une Française à New York sounds like a perfect companion to the witty yet-to-be-published memoir, Polly-Vous Francais: Une Americaine in Paris.
Know any good agents?

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