A hilarious, candid account of what life in France is actually like, from a writer for Vanity Fair and GQ
Americans love to love Paris. We buy books about how the French parent, why French women don’t get fat, and how to be Parisian wherever you are. While our work hours increase every year, we think longingly of the six weeks of vacation the French enjoy, imagining them at the seaside in stripes with plates of fruits de mer.
John von Sothen fell in love with Paris through the stories his mother told of her year spent there as a student. After falling for and marrying the French waitress he meets in New York, von Sothen follows his mother’s dream and moves to Paris. But fifteen years in, he’s finally ready to admit his mother’s Paris is mostly a fantasy. In this hilarious and delightful collection of essays, von Sothen walks us through real life in Paris—myth-busting our Parisian daydreams but also revealing the inimitable and too often invisible pleasures of family life abroad. Through these essays, you’ll learn about what to do when you unwittingly commit yourself to two weeks of vacation with friends who ration snacks down to the gram and who mock you mercilessly for sleeping in; how to react when French men turn to you, the American, for fashion tips such as where to find a Maine trapper vest; and how to tell if you’re being invited to a super-exclusive secret society of intellectuals or, alternately, a weird sex club.
Relentlessly funny and full of incisive observations, Monsieur Mediocre is ultimately a love letter to France—to its absurdities, its history, its ideals—but it’s a very French love letter: frank, smoky, unsentimental. It is a clear-eyed ode to a beautiful, complex, contradictory country from someone who both eagerly and grudgingly calls it home.