A series of 17th-century buildings, dotted with gargoyles and fitted together in a symmetrical octagon, serves as a backdrop to one of the most dazzling areas of Paris: Place Vendôme. Under the watchful eye of Napoleon, perched high atop a 144-foot bronze column, the world’s most coveted gems are transformed into extravagant trinkets for the world’s rich and famous personalities. Spellbinding names like Boucheron, Cartier, Chaumet and Van Cleef & Arpels all boast of a rich and opulent history that has withstood the test of time and continues to flourish, much like the centuries-old square itself.
William Burroughs’ “Naked Lunch” was “unfilmable,” but Canadian wizard David Cronenberg went ahead and adapted it to the screen anyway. Discerning fans of altered states of consciousness will delight at the matter-of-fact way in which Cronenberg has incorporated a Mugwump here, a Sex Blob there, a very proficient talking anus and word processing machines whose software hearkens back to the primeval slime.
When my friend Jacques offered to take me on a catacomb tour of Paris, I didn’t hesitate. I couldn’t pass up an invitation to visit the labyrinthine quarry that furnished the stones of Paris, from the gargoyles of Notre Dame to the cobblestones of Montparnasse.
Sometimes the smallest thing, a spat for example, leads you into a larger examination of cultural values and belief systems.
All expatriates should add to their existential, Proustian shopping list at least one journey back to the Old Country – not their last place of residence, but their real pays natal. Continue reading “Remembrances of Jerseys Past”
Throughout his career, expatriate writer Edmund White has brought a sensual richness and intellectual rigor to the printed page. From his 1973 debut as the 33-year-old novelist of the Nabokov-praised masterpiece, Forgetting Elena, to the recently edited 1991 edition of the Faber & Faber anthology of short gay fiction, Edmund White has exerted a considerable influence in international literary circles. Published widely in England, America and France, White has taught at Columbia and Yale, and in 1983 was the recipient of a Guggenheim grant. He is currently on staff at Brown University, and is back in Paris completing a colossal five-year project – a critical biography of Jean Genet. White speaks to the Free Voice of his life and work.
Every year busloads of French school children and tourists from around the globe make the day trip north from Paris to visit the clearing at Rothondes where the Armistice was signed in a railroad car at the end of World War I. All along the road, just an hour from Paris, an impressive number of medieval churches, monasteries and graceful châteaux dot the rolling hills of Picardy. A few miles from the famous clearing, the Museum of Franco-American Cooperation celebrates friendship between the two nations. Housed in the 17th-century château of Blérancourt, the museum’s art collection, special exhibitions and extensive documentation trace more than 200 years of Franco-American relations.
The plot is high youth unemployment and crowded housing, the subplot, the disenfranchisement of minorities, and the opening scenes of the drama are neighborhood riots and high school violence. Somewhere in the background a rap music sound track heightens tension…
Overdeveloped though the Cote d’Azur may be, it can still offer almost hidden pockets of charm and history, like Eze, a tiny walled village perched on the top of a 1400-foot peak overlooking the Mediterranean. Continue reading “Travel: Visiting the Village of Eze”
Be aware of the ides of March. That’s the time when conversations turn from snow and downhill runs to sunny villages and weekend getaways…and southern France. This region, known as Provence, offers a remarkable range of springtime destinations such as Avignon, Arles and Orange. Continue reading “Arles & Avignon: Weekend Getaway”
Feature, February 1991
“It flatters you for a while,” wrote Madame de Sévigne, a.k.a. ‘la Marquise de Chocolat.’ “It warms you for an instant, then all of a sudden it kindles a mortal fever in you.” Continue reading “French chocolates”