Sunday, December 11, 2011

Americans in Paris

Meet (virtually) David McCullough, Pulitzer Prize winning author.  I had heard of him because Son #2 and the Ex-Ex are history nuts and read quite a bit.  He won the Pulitzer not once, but twice, for Truman and John Adams.  I saw his book, The Greater Journey, Americans in Paris in the bookstore, read about it in the newspaper, but decided not to spend $37.50 on a book that I might not even like.  So, I put my name on the waiting list at the library.  I am not a very patient person, but I had lots of other books to read.  I finally got the call from the library and went to pick it up.  Well, I was immediately hooked and knew that I had to have my own copy.  I came up with a couple of old Barnes and Noble gift cards with more than half the price of the book left on them and I bought my own.  (I also get either the member discount or an educator discount-- every little bit helps, n'est-ce pas?)
This book is set in Paris in the years between 1830 and 1900 and tells the story of several Americans who moved there to either further their education and training or to work.  Artists, sculptors, writers, politicians, musicians, and doctors, such as Samuel F.B. Morse, James Fenimore Cooper, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Elihu Washburne, Elizabeth Blackwell, Augustus Saint-Gaudens, Mary Cassatt, and John Singer Sargent come to life through Mr. McCullough's words.  And I can't believe how much I didn't know about Paris.  I knew next to nothing about the Franco-Prussian War, the Commune, and Napoléon III's building projects.  Was I sleeping through my college French civilization courses or what? 
I am almost finished, but I have a feeling that I will go back and reread many of the sections.  I know that I will look at Paris through different eyes when I return next month. 
The Pont Neuf
Pierre-Auguste Renoir

Man at the Window
Gustave Caillebotte 
In 2006, Son #2 and I went to Boston to see a Red Sox baseball game.  We had a great time (even though the Sox lost) visiting the city.  I saw a poster advertising an exhibit at the Museum of Fine Arts, Americans in Paris 1860-1900. I worked out a deal with son and in exchange for a tour of Fenway Park, he would accompany me to the art museum.  I wish I could go back in time and the see the exhibit again because I would appreciate it so much more after reading this book!
I did buy a poster and it hangs in my bedroom where I can look at it last thing before going to sleep and first thing upon waking up.
Isn't it stunning? 
And since Google and the internet make it easy to find just about anything you want, I found a website for the exhibit so I can go back relive it a bit.  I wonder if Mr. McCullough saw this exhibit and thought "Hmmmm.... I bet I could write a book about this."  More likely, he was already at work on this chef d'oeuvre
As Malcolm Rogers, Ann and Graham Gund Director of the Boston MFA, said about the Americans in Paris exhibit--
"Americans in Paris presents a captivating picture of a city that is as alluring today as it was to American artists over 100 years ago."
If you love Paris as much as I do, this is a must-read.  Maybe Santa will leave it under the tree for you, if you ask nicely.

Bon appétit, M. David McCullough et merci beaucoup!  Vous adorez Paris aussi, n'est-ce pas?

1 comment:

Lisa@Pickles and Cheese said...

Not sure how I missed this post but I picked up a copy of this book too. So interesting! It might take me a while to finish it but it's worthwhile. I am learning a lot. :)