Thursday, February 21, 2008

Metrostop Paris

"An Englishman, travelling around Paris on the metro, stumbles on the most extraordinary stories, all true but most of them unknown to the public."

-- jacket blurb for Metrostop Paris

A talk by author Gregor Dallas Tuesday has me itching to head to the bookstore today, the official release date for Metrostop Paris. Not having read the book yet, of course I can't review it. But I can tell you about his talk.

When I headed to the luncheon where he spoke, I was assuming I'd hear an author talk about a the history of the Paris metro system.

Nothing could be further from the truth; it's Paris seen as you emerge from the metro, with rich layers of history normally unseen by the casual traveller. Mr. Dallas was witty, his talk was brillliant, and the book promises to be highly readable, informative, and entertaining. Fascinated as he is with local history, he has gathered stories from 2000 years of Paris history. Using the theme of "birth and rebirth that runs through all of Paris art," he uses the imagery of emerging from the metro stop as a starting point for his tales.

Certainly it will be a must-read for any literate folk contemplating a trip to Paris, who strive to look beyond the cliché version of tourist Paris. And a rich source for Paris dwellers to re-experience their city with new eyes. I daresay you will never exit the metro at Denfert Rochereau without thinking of Mr. Dallas' explanation of the source of the place name -- the "Barrière d'enfer" -- Hell's Gate -- and the anecdote about the origin of the danse macabre.

Or the Porte de la Villette, "...the site of the city's abattoirs in the nineteenth century -- from which is born the story of a true Parisian cowboy, the Marquis de Mores, who built a wooden chateau in the Badlands of Dakota and died in a gun battle in the Tuareg, of southern Algeria, in 1898."

The official launch will be Thursday March 13 at 7:30 pm at W. H. Smith, for a book reading and signing for the UK edition of Metrostop Paris. The US edition, which Mr. Dallas says is "quite different" from the UK edition, will be available through Walker & Company May 13.


Tin Foiled said...

I have to admit (with guilt) that I choose my books like I choose my wines -- by the cover ;)

Metrostop Paris looks like a winner!

Priscilla said...

"The US edition, which Mr. Dallas says is "quite different" from the UK edition, will be available through Walker & Company"
Well, it seems that we Americans will be treated to yet another "dummie-downed" version of a UK book. Perhaps I am only one of a small segment of the country who prefers not to be relegated to the "short yellow bus" group of readers who can't figure out British English, but I find it insulting and infuriating when publishers decide who can read what the author wrote and who needs to be given the Pablum.

materfamilias said...

Thanks for the recommendation, Polly. This promises to be a nice complement to my shelf of "Paris books."

Polly-Vous Francais said...

TF and Materfamilias,
I didn't make it to the book store today, but will report back when I have a copy.

Priscilla, I haven't made a comparison of UK and US books in general; but that's an interesting point. In any case I look forward to reading the book on either side of the Atlantic.

Polly-Vous Francais said...


I received an email from Gregor Dallas with the following info. I hope it eases your concerns, at least about Metrostop!

"Americans are always open to ideas, which I have always found refreshing after dealing with the cynics in my own country – where storytelling is much the preferred mode. When I write for the Great British public I insert my ideas, like the Trojan horse, within a packing of tales. That, of course, explains the way I write – in every book I have written with the exception of my doctoral thesis on French peasants. Your reader who is worried about a dumming down in the American edition should caste her concerns aside. This does woefully happen. But George Gibson of Walker Books would never allow such a deplorable thing in his house, ever. If anything, the American edition has been 'brightened up' with an extended introduction that covers the sort of thing I touched upon on last Tuesday's lecture. It will also be illustrated. I would say, having worked in detail on both, that the two editions cater very well, and in no way patronisingly, to their different readerships; and that this is something other authors should consider."

Priscilla said...

My new heroes - Mr. Gibson and Mr. Dallas! Thank you.

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