Breaking news! This weekend, historian and author David McCullough announced -- for the first time to the public -- the subject of of his next book: Americans in Paris from the early 1900's to 1930. The theme, though, will be fascinatingly different from all other tomes on those all-too-famous Yanks in the City of Light. His will be a study how the nascent technology of aviation influenced their lives and vice versa.
Speaking at the annual meeting of the Federation of Alliances Francaises in Providence, where he was receiving the coveted Prix Charbonnier for his most recent work on Americans in Paris, The Greater Journey, Mr. McCullough unveiled his latest project. Realizing, in Paris during a 4-day taping for 60 Minutes, that writing about Paris was in his heart, he knew his next book also had to be about Americans in Paris in the 20th century. "But," he said, "I was faced with the problem of 'How can I make it different from so much that has been written? I cannot go down the same old path about Hemingway, Fitzgerald, and Gertrude Stein, etc. etc.' I knew it could be done and I knew that there were so many more people than those clichés that they had become, alas. But what would make it work? And inform? What was the perspective or lens through which I could look at this period that would be different? And then, one day, came one of those moments where suddenly it hit me. And, honestly, it just lifted me out of my chair. And that is: aviation. The advent of flight. The advent of the airplane. The most emblematic development of the 20th century."
Here is a brief glimpse of him reading the first page of his new book, describing Edith Wharton in Paris as she witnessed the first airplane to ever fly over Paris,on Monday, October 18,1909.
The video is truncated, alas. I had to focus on the talk. Page one had me completely spellbound. Afterwards, Mr. McCullough said to me, "Well, Polly, if your face was an indication, I guess it will be a hit."
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