Going into Town: A Love Letter to New York by Roz Chast
(Bloomsbury USA, 2017, 169 pages)
Going into Town: A Love Letter to New York started as a small booklet written by author Chast as a guide to Manhattan for her daughter who was moving there for college. On the first page though, she states, “it’s not really a guide book” because, for example, there’s nothing in it about the Statue of Liberty. She covers the basics, including the layout of Manhattan, from which I learned that avenues run north and south, while streets run east and west, and the distance between avenues is greater than the distance between streets. I also learned that Manhattan is 2.3 miles across, so you could plug in a toaster on one side of the island, run the cord along 14th Street, and have toast on the other side. Chast’s dry wit made me chuckle aloud several times. In addition to the layout of Manhattan, she covers the Subway system, the Met and other museums, parks, food, and apartments. I’m planning to go to New York over the summer and will probably check out this book again before I leave. Even if you’re not going there, it’s a fun, informative read.
A Year in Provence by Peter Mayle
(Vintage Books, 2010, 207 pages)
Frenchized: an English family’s journey.
An Age of License: A Travelogue by Lucy Knisley
(Fantagraphics, 2014, 195 pages)
I read Lucy Knisley’s graphic novel, Relish, a couple years ago and enjoyed her artistic style and story (it was food-focused – always a win for me) so I thought I’d look into more of her work. An Age of License was sitting on the shelf at the library so I grabbed it. It’s actually a follow-up to her graphic novel, French Milk. I haven’t had a chance to read that yet, but this book stands alone so I didn’t feel like I was missing anything.
An Age of License is a graphic retelling of the experiences Knisley had while traveling around Europe after the release of French Milk. She has just ended a long-term serious relationship and is dealing with that in addition to reflecting on her life and her career. She is able to meet up with her mom, who has taken a trip to France with some friends, and has a European romance that helps distract her from focusing too much on the questions of where her life is/should be going.
Interspersed throughout the book are more detailed, colored drawings which highlight Knisley’s artistic talent in a different way. These simultaneously enhance the story while offering a visual break. I’d be curious to hear the logic behind her decision to include these pieces the way she did.
I wasn’t necessarily wowed by this book, but I liked it overall. I’ll certainly be picking up French Milk. My next review will be of Knisley’s more recent title, Displacement.
If you like travelogues and enjoy graphic novels, this would probably be an enjoyable read for you.
Here, There, Elsewhere: Stories from the Road by William Least Heat-Moon
(Little, Brown and Company, 2013, 416 pages)
Here, There, Elsewhere is a collection of travel stories by William Least Heat-Moon. The stories take the reader to England, Japan, Mexico, Kansas, Oregon, and many other locations. Not only does the author discuss these locations and the scenery, but also the food, customs, and people of the areas that he visited. The stories were written from 1983-2011. At the beginning of each story, there is a short update on changes since the story was written. For example, Heat-Moon describes a trip on the steamboat, Delta Queen. In his preface to the story, Heat-Moon mentions that the Delta Queen is now a permanently anchored hotel on the Tennessee River at Chattanooga.
William Least Heat-Moon is the pen name of William Trogdon. He was born in Kansas City, Missouri. He now resides near Columbia, Missouri where he lives on an old tobacco farm that he’s returning to forest. Heat-Moon is the author of Blue Highways, PrairyErth, River-Horse, and Roads to Quoz.
I enjoyed reading Here, There, Elsewhere as a change of pace from my usual mysteries or biographies. It was an easy book to pick up and put down as each story was usually less than 20 pages long. Heat-Moon has a way of describing things that make you feel that you are right there with him. If you are interested in travel, you might way to give Here, There, Elsewhere a try.
The Sweet Life in Paris: Delicious Adventures in the World’s Most Glorious – and Perplexing – City
by David Leboviz
(Broadway, 2009, 304 pages)
I really enjoyed reading this book! David Lebovitz is the former pastry chef from Chez Panisse (Alice Waters’s restaurant in California) and is currently a pastry chef living in Paris. Lebovitz fell in love with Paris when he first visited in the 1980s and moved there to fulfill his dream of eventually living in the City of Lights. This is arguably more of a travelogue than a food memoir, which is what I initially anticipated. Each chapter is more of a vignette looking at how experiences in France are decidedly different from what David initially thought or expected. We see how he adapts and works to acclimate himself to the city he now calls home. Each chapter ends with a recipe (or 4), all of which I’m eager to try. He explains his recipes in a very clear, accessible manner which is greatly appreciated 🙂
There’s a lot of humor in this book and I found myself comparing Lebovitz with David Sedaris a little (who also writes about his experiences living in France – check out When You are Engulfed in Flames). I think this would be a fun book to read before you take a trip to Paris because you definitely get insight into the different cultural expectations and you can learn from David’s mistakes. I’ll definitely be picking up some of Lebovitz’s cookbooks based on what I saw here.