Jun 03 2012
I’d already heard the story of how Charles de Gaulle left France during an uprising and told his country to shape up (and they did) a few times from my boyfriend’s father, who lived in France at the time. But I’d never heard the slogan of that student revolution “La Beaute est dans la Rue,” or understood just what the riots of 1968 were about until I read John Baxter’s contribution to the Museyon Guide series, Chronicles of Old Paris , a guidebook that allows the reader to travel not only through the streets of Paris, but through time. Each of the twenty-nine chapters focuses on a specific person, invention, trend, or revolution (militaristic or artistic) that contributed to the development of the city of light we know and love and long to travel to today. And if you do travel there, a map to each significant site is included at the end of each segment.
Baxter admits the reader into the cellars of Garnier’s majestic opera house and behind the cork-lined wall’s of Proust‘s bedroom. Fifty Shades fans can learn about the appetites of the Marquis de Sade, and those with an appetite for the surreal can explore the movement’s beginnings with founder Andre Breton. I learned more about the guillotine than I wanted to know (such as why the block is called the mouton, French for “sheep”), and learned enough about French cinema to want to see more.
Museyon Guides are available for more than just Paris. We currently stock Chronicles of Old Boston, and Chronicles of Old London is due out in time for the Olympics in that city this summer. I chose to read Museyon’s Paris first, not only because I love the city, but because the author is a trusted guide through its streets. John Baxter has written several books on France, including the beloved The Most Beautiful Walk in the World, a memoir of his experience as a literary tour guide in Paris. In fact, Baxter includes several “walking tours” at the end of the Museyon Guide. And if his work experience and writings on Paris aren’t enough, Baxter also lives in the former residence of my hero: American expat and bookseller and publisher of James Joyce, Sylvia Beach. Reading his guide to the city he so obviously loves, one is forced to admit that once again, the French have it right: the beauty is in the streets.Read more: Andre Breton, Book Reviews, Charles de Gaulle, Chronicles of Old Paris, Fifty Shades of Grey, General, James Joyce, John Baxter, La Beaute est dans la Rue, Marquis de Sade, Museyon Guides, Paris, Proust's bedroom, Surrealism, Sylvia Beach, Travel