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Bastille Day Nonfiction or “Faction?”

This year, I opted out of traveling to New Orleans to celebrate my mother’s birthday (her 97th) in lieu of staying home for Bastille Day. She managed to be born on July 13th, making it a challenge to be in both places at the same time! No worries, though — we already have plans to visit her over Thanksgiving, instead.

You may have heard stories of my mother before. She’s a feisty woman who, at almost one century old, still lives alone in a large house, still drives, still works (volunteer work at two places), still colors her hair brown, still puts on makeup everyday and has her nails done weekly, dresses to the nines in very fashionable clothing with matching shoes and handbags and who is forever making jokes. One might say she’s “full of piss and vinegar.” As you can imagine, we’re all wild about her.

When making those Thanksgiving plans, I asked her if she’d be around (in a joking way), and she answered, “If I’m not, I’ll be dead and then you’ll HAVE TO COME!” I cracked up. Then, she made it very clear in no uncertain terms that we were not to give her any more gifts — she didn’t want a single thing more to take care of at this ripe old age. When I asked her if a gift certificate for a manicure was acceptable, she changed her tune fast.

So, as you can tell, while I do want to be here for Bastille Day, I’m seriously missing not being with her on this formidable occasion. Of course, we all think she will live forever and I am sure that when the time comes to say our last goodbyes it will be one of the hardest things I’ll ever have to do in my life. (The tears are there as I write, just thinking about it.)

All this sentiment on my part started as a result of yesterday’s gathering at Parler Paris Après Midi where author and historian Gerri Chanel spoke about her experience writing “Saving Mona Lisa: The Battle to Protect the Louvre and its Treasures During World War II.” The subject was fascinating for all of us and she held us spellbound — not just the story about what the most important museum in the world went through to protect its treasures during the great wars, but her personal discovery of how much of what we read and believe is true, simply is not. During her research she learned that so much history in so-called scholarly tomes had been enhanced, changed, fictionalized or just unverified as correct.

At the end of the talk, Gerri sold almost all of the books she had brought in her rolling bag, then generously gave me a personally endorsed copy to give to my mother as a birthday gift. She’s still reading ardently and loves to read nonfiction best of all.

In the context of being able to believe what one reads, don’t you think it’s funny that we call books of truth “nonfiction?” Why don’t we just call it “Faction?”

According to Dictionary.reference.com, Nonfiction is “the branch of literature comprising works of narrative prose dealing with or offering opinions or conjectures upon facts and reality, including biography, history, and the essay.” Like a photo can no longer be believable because it can so easily be “Photoshopped” or manipulated in some way, so is the truth in writing, even in what we are told is “nonfiction.”

The sentiment struck me again when reading a few emails this morning from my New Orleans friends promoting the Bastille Day events scheduled for the coming weekend in the Big Easy (bastilledaynola.com/). There’s a picnic in the park in the Faubourg Marigny, a Petanque Tournament to raise money for the Alliance Francaise de La Nouvelle-Orléans and music by the Preservation Hall Brass Band. Sandwiches are compliments of “Un Bistro Français.” In addition, there’s the “French Dog Contest,” the “Bartender and Waiters Race,” a Wreath Laying Ceremony at the statue of Jeanne d’Arc and a whole host of other activities centered around Bastille Day in the city that has the deepest French roots of all other U.S. towns — my home town.

I started to think maybe it was even more poignant to celebrate Bastille Day in New Orleans than in Paris! As it turns out, there are about 12 million Americans of French descent and about 2 million who speak French at home. Another 450,000 U.S. residents speak Creole or Cajun. These statistics are compliments of Wikipedia.org, so since we can’t believe what we read, these may not be all that true, either! And this doesn’t take into consideration the French now living in the U.S. nor all those Francophiles out there, who aren’t French at all, but wish they were!

A la prochaine…on Bastille Day!

Adrian Leeds, The Adrian Leeds Group Inc - Adrian Leeds

Director of The Adrian Leeds Group, Inc

 

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P.S. I have a special request: For those of you who tune in to HGTV’s House Hunters International for the new episode “A Taste for Paris” on July 10, 2014 (at 10:30 p.m. and 1:30 a.m. E/P), I’d greatly appreciate a recording I can privately view since I don’t get to see my own shows from Paris! Please do not broadcast it openly (it’s copyrighted), but send the file or link to [email protected] Many thanks!! And for all you fans, we now have a special Facebook page you can “Like” and where you can voice your opinions. 

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