What We Write About When We Write About Paris
Every Monday and Wednesday, I sit down at the computer about 8:00 a.m., go through the recent emails and start to write the Parler Paris Nouvellettre®. Sometimes I don’t have a clue what will end up on the page until the very moment that the blank screen stares back at me with only the date at the top. There is simply so much to say about Paris and what’s going on here that in all these years, since 1998, I’ve never experienced a minute of writer’s block.
Sure, there are things I’d like to write that I don’t, or don’t dare to write for fear of being misunderstood or frowned upon. And sure, there are things I do dare to write about that are taken in different ways by the recipient than perhaps they were intended. Every writer has his own reality just like every reader has his own reality, and somewhere in the middle lies the truth that none of us will really know.
Yesterday I received an email from the American Library in Paris promoting an upcoming event on Tuesday February 10th at 7:30 p.m. titled “What We Write About When We Write About Paris” — a panel discussion featuring four permanent and part-time Paris residents: Debra Finerman, EJ Simon, David Benjamin, and Meg Bortin.
This was intriguing because so many friends in Paris are writers — in fact a very large majority of them are journalists, authors, copywriters, bloggers, poets — you name it, they write it. I don’t know if that’s because I write that I know other writers or because Paris is a magnet for wordsmiths and always has been. Particularly writers coming from the American community, that began with World War I when shortly after the war, writers such as Ernest Hemingway returned to France. And now the writing community is supported by such institutions as the Shakespeare & Company bookstore.
This history need not be written here. Too many other writers have done that for me — such as David Burke’s “Writers in Paris” from which he now gives walking tours in Paris. “Writers in Paris” is even a course given at a number of universities, such as NYU, University of San Diego and Washburn University in Kansas. So you don’t need me to fill you in on who’s who and what they wrote here in Paris. This is information you will find at every turn.
Instead, with the subject of Freedom of Speech on the tip of everyone’s tongues these past ten days, “What We Write About When We Write About Paris” is now an even broader subject than it was before.
Just like Paris is the most visited city in the world, I’d venture to guess it’s also the most written about city in the world. In the last 10 days, that may have even escalated to new heights. When you search Amazon books using the keyword “Paris,” 199,072 possible titles emerge. When you search the New York Times Web site for articles using the keyword “Paris,” 603,172 articles result. Anything you want to know about Paris is out there to find because so many writers have been writing about Paris for so many years that there is simply a cornucopia of information about the beloved city. What I write a few times a week is just a drop in the proverbial bucket, if even that much — maybe more like just a single molecule!
Fortunately we writers still have our freedom of expression — at least some of us still do. And we can write things that we dare and be misunderstood or frowned upon…or in the case of Charlie Hebdo, sadly murdered for. In today’s world, we are taking our chances putting our pens to paper or typing letters on a computer screen for all to read, to contemplate, to admire or to criticize. Writers put themselves out there and make themselves vulnerable to others who don’t necessarily appreciate the freedom of expression and prefer expression which is more physical and sometimes violent.
So, when I sat down today to write about Paris, this is what the blank screen needed and wanted to say. What do you write about when you write about Paris…if you do?
A la prochaine,
(by Erica Simone)
Respond to Adrian
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