Monday noon

Another beautiful, probably very unseasonably warm day. Normally the heat comes on in Paris apartment buildings on October 1—and ours did, because it was cold for a couple of days. But then it warmed up again, so the radiators are turned off, the windows are wide open, and at night people are out late in the streets as if it were summer.

Yesterday—Sunday—afternoon after a bit of translating, I took a book to the Luxembourg Garden and looked for one of the lounge chairs. There are three types of chairs in the Garden (and in the old days, whenever that was, you had to pay to sit in one; someone would come by to collect your money, like the ladies at the entry to the public toilets, les ‘Dames pipi’): straight chairs and armchairs, one like a dining chair and one low slung like a transat. The low-slung lounge chairs fill up pretty quickly on a sunny day, so as I meandered up the west side of the garden, through the different lawn areas I kept my eyes peeled, and as soon as I spotted one I grabbed it, along with a straight chair for my feet (there are always lots of extra straight chairs). A troop of girl scouts were playing on the lawn—which is forbidden—until two guardians came around and shooed them off. After there were some teenagers with teenage music and I decided to try my luck higher up towards the orchard. By then it was late and somewhat overcast, and I had a choice of lounge chairs overlooking the lawn with Baudelaire on it.

The kids’ playground is being done over, so it’s closed, which means that on these beautiful weekends, pre-schoolers are on the loose, instead of being corralled. The guardians were kept busy telling them and their parents where there were some lawns they could play on.

Today they’ll be in nursery school, free from age two in France, nice for working mothers.

I’m reading Knaussgard’s new and final installment to My Struggle. It’s had several so-so reviews, but so far I really like it. I’m 100+ pages into the 1000-word total.

Just back

from a bus ride to the Marais, errands there and a walk back across to my side of the river. The main errand was to the Italian book shop, the Tour de Babel, where the owner speaks to me in Italian and speak back in French with the odd Italian word thrown in, proud that I can understand, if not chatter fluently. I told him what I’d been reading, in Italian, and he allowed as how I must be a halfway decent reader, and pressed a pile of new books on me, recommending one particularly, which I took. Did I like “La Ferrante’ he asked, and I said yes, but I’d read everything. Nevertheless he thought not have read her earlier books, but I assured him I’d one of them three times, and the others once. Oh, he said, I was really hooked.


Went to the hidden garden on the Rue des Rosiers and read All Quiet on the Western Front for a couple of hours (Helene Cixous talks a lot about it in the book I’m translating right now), then home via the bakery and the cheese store. Lovely afternoon.

The (New) Red Wheelbarrow Bookshop, Paris

11 rue Medicis, opposite the Luxembourg Garden, east (Pantheon) side, going up from the Odeon towards the Bd St Michel.


I learned from a writer friend just last week that The Red Wheelbarrow Bookshop had re-opened, now in the 6th arrondissement (rather than the Marais), still in the competent and enthusiastic and welcoming hands of Penelope Fletcher, a fellow Canadian. I popped in yesterday afternoon and met Penelope’s two assistants, Rafael and Renate, busy unpacking books for the poetry shelf, but Penelope herself was off with her books and information about Paris at the American Church’s afternoon for new arrivals in the city.

‘Come back, tomorrow,’ they said, and I will, even if it is raining, unlike yesterday, which was sunny.

So the 6th has a new English Bookshop—welcome, Penelope!


Honestly, the French will never be good capitalists. For one thing, the customer is always wrong.

I was happy to notice yesterday that the shopkeeper on a nearby side street who utterly failed to be impressed by my potentiality as a customer, ushering me out the door when I asked the same question about having some cushions made of the lovely fabrics she was selling, has gone out of business. I knew she wouldn’t last. France is not a nation of shop-keepers, as they like to sneer at the English, but never mind…they may be the most inefficient people in the western world, but they know what is important: esthetics, esthetics, esthetics!

The Noise

A noise, not a sound. A large egg-yolk-yellow bus almost without windows parked under my window. Last night when I went to bed, the parking spaces on the street had been roped off. Some kind of event in the church? A concert? Tonight? The bus’s motor is on and has been on for a couple of hours. There are people grouped around the door of the bus. Is the star inside? I don’t care. I don’t like the noise. I don’t think a bus should be able to idle its bus motor for hours under peoples’ windows.

There is a building in California on the Stanford campus which, at the level of the street-level, ground-floor office windows has a big sign: Drivers! Please turn off your motors! People are trying to work in here!

The thing about noise is that it only bothers me when I feel persecuted by it. If it is unavoidable city noise, I can enjoy it. I do have sound-proof windows, but the rooms behind them feel tight, claustrophobic, airless. I like the breeze on my skin, even the polluted city breeze with its many stinks.

Amsterdam Reading


A great reading with a wonderful audience on Tuesday evening. It went on until 10 pm, and then Marilyn and I went back to our hotel, had a bite and headed off to our rooms on the 12th floor of The Student Hotel, two metro stops from downtown. The next morning we went to the Rembrandt Haus museum and lucked into a talk about engravings in Rembrandt’s studio. The curator was fascinating and explained very clearly the whole process (etching, dry point…) including how Rembrandt, unlike most of his more academic predecessors, mixed his methods and was able to print far more subtley in terms of clarity of line or deliberate blurriness, darker or lighter; and how different supports (rag paper, velum, various Japanese papers) affected the result. Everything was demonstrated on Rembrandt’s bench, then printed on a press that was not original but just like the original. We visited the rest of the house, then went across the street for lunch at the Dance School, visited the Beguinage, before I headed to the station to get my train back to Paris and Marilyn returned to the hotel for another night.

Here is a link to some photos from Tuesday’s reading.

Today is another beautiful October day and I have worked, grocery shopped, taking pleasure in small stores—the Tunisian fruit and vegetable specialist, the Asian counter in the Marché St Germain for pot stickers, because the nearest supermarket is shutting down for remodeling. And so to bed, soon.

Sunday morning, Paris

Every time I come to Paris, I notice all the differences again, for a while, and then it all seems ‘normal,’ just a familiar part of my life. Yesterday I wrote in the morning, had lunch, went to the supermarket a couple of blocks away to buy—what? toilet paper, garbage bags—then took my grocery bag and a book to the Luxembourg Garden, found a sunny chair up by the orchard, and read (kafka, ‘The Burrow’; a new book by Cixous that I found here when I arrived). My usual spot under the two sequoias. A group of high school kids were talking beside me—one boy very loud, drowning out the girls, later one of the girls, very loud. Eventually someone higher up towards the southern rim of the Garden left, and I moved to their chair (musical chairs), later I moved again in search of sun. And still later, when the sun went down behind the buildings, I went to the indoor market to buy a head of lettuce and some vegetables to stock, because Sunday afternoon and Monday most food stores are closed. Parsnips (panais) and turnips, must be winter!

Forgot to mention that I sat for a bit on the edge of the lawn that contains the bust of Verlaine, scowling atop his column, with a pigeon sitting on his head.

And now, 7 pm, home from a walk on the Right Bank Quai of the Seine, which was packed with people, of all ages, walking, cycling, skateboarding, roller skating, scootering (electric and other0 hoverboarding, and all other means of transportation you can think of, except cars. I went not quite as far as the Arsenal, sat for a while, finished reading Kafka’s “The Burrow,’ lay down for a while on a bench and looked at the coach doors on the buildings on the Ile St Louis, and walked back to the foot bridge between the Louvre and the Institut, returned to the Left Bank, and home.

Blasey-Ford and Kavanaugh

I watched Blasey-Ford on tv at my downstairs neighbours on Thursday—was it (still a little blurry from jet lag)?—then came upstairs, made myself some dinner and watched Kavanaugh’s opening statement, which was enough to give me nightmares, apparently, since I woke myself up in the small hours, struggling to cry ‘Help, help!’ but not making much noise—not enough to bring the neighbours running. Was I reliving Blasey-Ford’s experience? Maybe.

Yesterday I ran errands again, to the SNCF to print out my Amsterdam tickets for Tuesday’s trip, a newstand to buy a magazine, then, though it was cold, through the Luxembourg Garden where I found a comfy chair near the duck pond and read for a while before returning home for supper and early bed. In fact, I fell asleep over a detective novel I downloaded to my ipad for the plane trip, but, to my annoyance, find I’ve already read. It shouldn’t matter, should it, since the plots of this series are all pretty much the same? That reminded me of the time I wanted to buy a copy of the previous day’s Le Monde; the newsie allowed as he had a copy, but ‘it’s been read.’ I bought it anyway…

It looks like a sunny day outside: sharply angular shadows on the buildings across the street. But the air is cold.