Danielle A. Krikorian
Arts and Culture Editor
Coffee and croissant for breakfast, some art gallery visits for lunch, a macaroon for dessert, and wine and frivolous flirting for dinner are the stuff dreams of Paris are made of. Perhaps it is so for jet-setters and tourists, at least.
In reality, the Parisian clouds may become too gloomy, the cramped metro less dreamy, and the food indulgence bodily-altering. One might then wonder how Parisians always have an impeccable style, thin waists, perfect bed-hair and manners that are too snobbish to be polished. “How to be Parisian Wherever You Are” is an ironic yet informative nonfiction book that will answer your questions. Sophie Mas, fellow Lebanese Audrey Diwan, Caroline De Maigret, and Anne Berest are its authors. The salmon tartar and cashmere sweaters are on.
The book is divided into five sections: “The Basics,” “Own Your Bad Habits,” “Cultivate Your Allure,” “Dare to Love,” and “Parisian Tips.” Each section is packed with dark humor and explores fashion, motherhood, culture, manners or lack-of depending on the setting, makeup do’s and don’ts, food restrictions, indulgence and recipes, beauty guidelines, snobbish city countryside hatred, and romantic tips.
The Parisienne is a moody, clinically depressed, fashionably late, perfectly imperfectly put-together, avant-garde woman with a gamine but unenthusiastic joie de vivre. She is an absolute paradox. She must love but not too deeply, laugh but not too heartily, and eat but not too indulgently. The ultimate secret weapon of Parisian attitude seems to be a perverse form of constant restriction that must appear to be innate. The fight between control and pleasure has never been sweeter.
The irony and satire is discreet. Should the book not be satirical or an over-exaggeration of romantic French stereotypes, certain tips are better not taken lightly. The Parisienne may sometimes cheat on her husband. After all, not only is she in love with her husband, but she is also “in love with love.” Why not? She is the perfect illusionist, the paragon of the time-consuming, controlling art of effortlessness. The Parisienne also needs a break and eating her way through stress is not an option. The art of lovemaking is both pleasurable and diet-friendly. The calories and stress can melt away.
The design of “How to be a Parisian” is an aesthetic masterpiece. The dominant color is a clean-cut white, the font is simple and classic, and the layout of the text is elegant and full of spaces between paragraphs and sentences. Each page is different and airy. The illustrations are minimalistic and pleasing to the eye. The pictures are romanticly reminiscent of the belle-epoch era. Some are black and white, some are colored like the 50s and others are bright and rich. Women (including the the authors), windows, libraries, pools, roses, actresses, and food are showcased.
Most tips are useful. They encourage independence, acceptance, minimalistic style, and happiness. The unorthodoxy is welcome. Sermons are rarely entertaining and humor, however dark, is bound to attract more attention and get messages across. “How to be Parisian Wherever You Are” by Sophie Mas, Audrey Diwan, Caroline De Maigre,t and Anne Berest is a fun read. Do not take it too seriously; it is a friend, not a sermon.