place based reads — or: as long as we’re going to sit for a spell…

Before the move to New York nearly eight years ago was even a possibility, my viewing and reading seemed to gravitate toward texts that were situated in that dynamic city. Perhaps there’s no reason to read anything into the geographies of my latest literary stumbling-upons (both new reads and re-reads), but nevertheless here are a few I’ve worked my way through that bring alive in fantastic ways two other cities:

Paris:

  • A Moveable Feast (Ernest Hemingway) – upon re-reading it was as if I’d never before read it? And this time, I had a “Midnight in Paris” version of Hemingway and his contemporaries in my mind.
  • The Invention of Hugo Cabret (Brian Selznick) – still haven’t seen Hugo. Don’t know how it could possibly compare to the magic insoired by the book.
  • Books, Baguettes, and Bedbugs (Jeremy Mercer) – haven’t started this yet, but the title was enough to draw me in.
  • The Elegance of the Hedgehog (Muriel Barberry) – second read in six months. The characters are just fantastic and the story makes Paris ever more sympathetic, enticing, full of everyday cosmopolitan possibility.

And another cherished Paris read this list makes me think of: Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities (I had a strange affinity for Sydney Carton).

London

  • A Severed Head (Iris Murdoch) – wicked, good fun.
  • The Picture of Dorian Gray (Oscar Wilde) – an absolute favorite.
  • Notes on a Scandal (Zoe Heller) – Cate Blanchett was fantastic in the film, so I’m trying the book.
  • Brick Lane (Monica Ali) – started reading this after coming across repeated references to it in a student’s dissertation. A decidedly different look at London than I’m used to reading; I.e. this ain’t no Vanity Fair.

And one that offers a particularly exposed look at both cities: George Orwell’s Down and  Out in Paris and London.

Any and all other recommendations welcome!

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