Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Fireworks and the French

In honor of the Fourth of July, our national holiday celebrating the signing of the Declaration of Independence in 1776, I read such document and was amazed at the list of grievances - I thought it was mostly about taxation without representation.

But no, Thomas Jefferson, the primary author of this historic document, uses phrases as "opposing with manly firmness his (the King's) invasions on the rights of the people"; "exposed (us) to all the dangers of invasions from without and convulsions from within" and accuses the King of Great Britain of  "repeated injuries and usurpations."

And this:
He has plundered our seas, ravaged our coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.

Jefferson was really, really mad. As were the representatives of the Thirteen Colonies who approved the measure unanimously.

On another note, I read two essays in Paris Was Ours. (After all the French did help us win the Revolutionary War.)

The first, by Veronique Vienne,  L'argent Is No Object, is her tale of moving back to Paris from America after her divorce. She is confused to discover that the French don't want to talk about money, in fact refuse to discuss it, unlike Americans who can think and talk of nothing else.

But, she asks, if the French don't talk about money, what do they talk about over those long, lingering dinners and lunches?

The asparagus season, the Tour de France, Japanese art, the films of Jean-Luc Godard, photojournalism, Yoko Ono, how to silence creaky floorboards, women's sports, the wonders of foot surgery, Cartier-Bresson, revisionist history, great radio programs, the latest Grand Palais contemporary art exhibition, and, last but not least, best recipes for beef bourguignon.

Just in case you were wondering.

In the second essay Diane Johnson, author of Le Divorce and Le Mariage, takes a look at Learning French Ways. She discovers that French hostesses have been known to buy pre-prepared food from Marks and Spencer and make use of frozen dinners and the microwave. That everyone in Paris wears a scarf (we knew that) and that French women buy two or three very good pieces and put them on to go to the store.

She wakes up one morning and realizes that women in Paris were all carrying the sort of handbag she had never thought of having in her wardrobe.

She writes: Last week I noticed that every French woman was carrying a big, brown leather, rather rustic-looking handbag with wide straps and lots of buckles and studs.  The ultimate version is from Bottega Veneta and costs two thousand euros.

But of course no French woman would ever discuss the price of such a prize.

Mais, non!

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