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From the big box of books [personal profile] octopedingenue sent me. I defy anyone to be sent a big box of books and then not sit down and read one of them instantly. It is human nature. I am resigned.

I spent Christmas 2006 in Paris. To be more specific, we took the sleeper train from Italy over the Alps and got out in Paris, and it was Christmas morning. I remember Paris intensely well; it was freezing, there were stairs everywhere, all our dinners were terrible and our breakfasts brilliant and the museums and architecture ridiculous, the interior of Notre Dame heated entirely by the bodies of the crowd of people in it for the Christmas service, the shatteringly gorgeous stained glass of Sainte-Chappelle.

Lucy Knisley's graphic journal of Paris therefore sends me into a fit of serious nostalgia, because she was there at exactly the same time. We saw the same art exhibits at the Pantheon, in the Pompidou, and may if my records are not inaccurate have been at the Louvre on the same day, so that she is showing exactly the same crowd of people standing in the reverence the Nike quietly makes around itself. She knows the same basic Parisian food groups to buy for a cheap day's food: baguette, croissant, pain au chocolate, chevre, blood orange juice, cornichons. And the way the bathrooms are never quite designed in a way that makes any damn sense to an American. And the way that if you go to the Picasso museum you fall in love with his realistic stuff because you've never seen any pictures of it before.

So for me this is a book that reminds me of a time I enjoyed profoundly, a city I hope to go back to, and it is so amazingly specific in evoking my recollections that I cannot help but treasure it. However, if you weren't there, then, I can't tell if this is actually any good, and I rather suspect that in many ways it isn't. It's very much a slice-of-life-- it is, after all, a journal-- but it therefore hasn't any shape, and I do feel that one of the things one ought to do when publishing autobiography is try to find some shape, because life does frequently have it. She is very young and slightly overawed and her art is expressive, but it has not I think quite come into itself yet. She doesn't annotate who the other people are in her life when she refers to them. And did I mention, she is young, young enough not to have learned yet that interesting to oneself does not, automatically, always mean interesting. But there is promise, I think, that she can evoke recall so precisely, and the art is, mostly, enjoyable to look at. I will look out for her later.

Bottom line: I can't tell what people who aren't me would think of this. For reasons extra-textual, I'm very happy to have read it.


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