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The Other Paris by Lucy Sante
The Other Paris by Lucy Sante (FSG)
Of all the cities in the world, Paris has a mythical hold on me. I don't know why? Los Angeles and Tokyo are my two other favorite cities. Still, somehow Paris has captured my imagination, and this book by Lucy Sante describes my imaginary Paris as a real place. I have been there at least six times in my life, yet it never disappoints and gives me a thrill whenever I'm confined in Paris. Sante's The Other Paris pretty much describes my fascination, as only my imagination is the French city, and then there is "real" Paris.
Sante uncovers a Paris that is exposed in particular works of literature, such as Fantomas and the film works by Louis Feuillade. This is Paris history as if The Situationists International and the Surrealists wrote it. Crime, vice, a little decadence here and there - it is what I imagine being in Paris, and therefore, clearly is.
The book often reads and looks like a textbook, and one wonders if The Other Paris will serve that role in a classroom. It should be. As well as is, without a doubt, one of the great books in English on the great city of my imagination and therefore known as Paris. I also realized by reading this book that Paris always had a great deal of street violence concerning murders and bombs. What happened a few years ago in the city of light is typical compared to the Paris of the 19th century.
Beautifully illustrated throughout the book with images collected by Sante, this seems to be a very personal work, unlike other "history" or "travel" books. And that I think one of the critical aspects of this work is making a public space or city into a unique landscape. Lucy Sante did this, and he did it remarkably well. A classic book.
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