Book Review: A Paris Notebook by C.W. Gusewelle

Book: A Paris Notebook by C.W. Gusewelle
Genre: Essays
Publisher: The Lowell Press
Publication date: 1985
Pages: 211

Source: Gift from my brother

 

cover of A Paris Notebook by C.W. Gusewelle

A series of editorial columns written for the Kansas City Star while Gusewelle and his family spent several months in Paris

Summary: A Paris Notebook contains a series of columns originally written for the Kansas City Star written when Gusewelle and his wife lived with their teen-age daughters in Paris for about six months. Their trip begins with a delayed plane, missed train, and a lost hotel room and ends, as long trips do, with:

That’s what I mean about hating conclusions–things ending before their time has quite run out. It is some days yet, weeks actually, before we have to go anywhere. But the time remaining is shadowed and changed by this sense of termination. p. 201

In between there are 70 some little gems, memories of Paris that will make you feel you have been there if you haven’t and recall your own reminiscences if you have.

Thoughts: My brother found this book for me when he saw I was reading so many books about France. Gusewelle was a favorite columnist of his when he lived in Kansas City in the 80s — Dale may well have read these columns when they first appeared.

I hadn’t realized until I read this book that all the memoirs I’ve read about France are by Californians or New Yorkers. What a relief to have a view from a fellow Missourian. I’d venture to guess this is the only France travel book to describe a duck hunt.

More surprising, this is the first time I remember reading about mushroom hunting. Surely, one of the foodie memoirs must cover this. But, I suppose, city chefs buy their mushrooms. They wouldn’t think, as a Missourian might, that morels grow on our forest floors and, thus, wonder about the fungi in France.

I loved, too, the descriptions of the city from the perspective of someone who lives in a much less densely populated place. The subways make several appearances and there’s a lovely piece about the way one can see into the apartments across the street as if watching multiple stage plays. Weather, too, is more richly described by a Kansas City dweller than anyone else I’ve read. They know a bit about weather in Kansas City.

Appeal: This reads more as a series of essays than a narrative. We never found out, for instance, why Gusewelle and his family moved to Paris for six months. But there is a story arc because all trips have a beginning, middle, and end. Paris, itself, shines as the major character in these pieces, sharing her places and people for a time with a Midwestern reporter.

photo of Eiffel tower with words Dreaming of FranceChallenges: This is my 17th book for the Books on France 2013 Challenge. I’m also linking this post to today’s Dreaming of France event at An Accidental Blog. Paulita has a book review of The French House by Nick Alexander and there are several links to other French-themed posts.

This also works as a Nonfiction November post. This week’s discussion question is what new books we’ve found during this month from other participant’s posts. We’re also invited to post reviews of nonfiction books like this one. The Week 4 link list is live at Sophisticated Dorkiness.

What are your favorite memoirs of France?
Signature of Joy Weese Moll

About Joy Weese Moll

a librarian writing about books
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10 Responses to Book Review: A Paris Notebook by C.W. Gusewelle

  1. Being a midwesterner I think I would enjoy a book written from that perspective as well.

  2. Haralee says:

    This one sounds interesting. I have a Jacques Pepin cookbook and he talks about nuts, mushrooms, berries, clams, crabs, all available for those who want to. His point that in France everyone would be out mushrooming, picking berries, picking up nuts from the ground etc.

  3. Helene Cohen Bludman says:

    With Paris as a main character I am already intrigued. This sounds like something I would enjoy.

  4. Dale Weese says:

    Gusewelle often gave credit to his editor for his creative and courageous assignments. The newspaper sent him to Paris for six months, to write these columns. He also sent him to Africa once, and the assignment went something like “Go where you need to go. Talk to whomever you need to talk to. Write what needs to be written. Come home when you get sick.” He went all over the world on similar assignments. He went up the Siberian Lena river clear to the source in the wilds, and returned to civilization just in time to witness the fall of communism in Moscow. Twenty years later he and his wife, elderly now, repeated the trip and reported on the changes. Those columns became a book “A Great Current Running.”

  5. Paulita says:

    This does sound interesting. I think most of the stories I read about France are written by people from the UK. I wonder if it isn’t as big of a transition for them as it is for Americans. I think A Year in Provence has mushroom hunting in it. I’m not sure I’d feel comfortable eating mushrooms I collected, even if the pharmacist checked them out.

  6. Louise says:

    I just love a Paris memoir too, this one sounds intriguing. It certainly does make a difference where the memoirist is from. There are a surprising number written by Australians moving to France, or living there for a while, and I really prefer those, I understand the author and their background much better than when I read about an American in Paris for instance. Still I’ve just tried to find this book, it’s not so easy from down under- but stranger things have happened, and I do hang out in used book sales often enough, perhaps I’ll come across it-there can never be too many Paris memoirs. I always have at least one looming in my TBR.

  7. Pingback: Sunday Salon — December 1 | Joy's Book Blog

  8. Vanessa Finney says:

    I liked “Paris to the Moon” by Adam Gopnik. And as a writer for The New Yorker, it’d please Kim Ukura over at Sophisticated Dorkiness.

  9. Pingback: Books on France Challenge — Wrap Up | Joy's Book Blog

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