Sunday, June 15, 2008

Pete Hamill: five best books about cities

Pete Hamill, the former editor of the New York Post and Daily News, is the author of, most recently, the novel North River.

He named a five best list of books about cities for the Wall Street Journal. One title on the list:
by Andrew Hussey
Bloomsbury, 2006

Everybody is here in this history of the "secret city" of Paris: Knights Templar, flâneurs, great whores, artistic visionaries, charlatans, revolutionists, various Napoleons, Balzac and Camus, flat-out criminals, and even Joan of Arc. The writing is clear and exuberant, with a journalist's eye for the revealing details of place and character and a scholar's scrupulous regard for meaning. After reading "Paris," you will never see Europe's most beautiful city the same way. Or Parisians. A few years ago, when reading the book, I reminded a friend that one reason I love Paris (as Faulkner once said about Mississippi: in spite of, not because) is that it was founded by Celts, from a wandering tribe called the Parisii. They saw the Île de la Cité, protected by a flowing moat on all sides. The tribe's wandering was over. "If that's the case," my friend asked, "why is the food so good?" I paused and said: "Because they had the great good fortune to be conquered by the Romans, not the Brits."
Read about the book that topped Hamill's list.

--Marshal Zeringue