Thursday, June 05, 2014

Paris Letters by Janice MacLeod

Gah! I loved Paris Letters because it is almost too good to be true and face it – you cannot pull this off and neither can I---but Janice MacLeod did. 
 Did she ever ….

And she's Canadian! yay!

She smartly quit her job after saving and selling and being really pragmatic and wonderful and figured out how to travel for a year

She was really going to prepare to spend a lot of time with two guys named Sandro and Marco ( one of whom is a bodyguard to the Pope!!!! How does she live this life?) in Italy; but got major sidetracked in Paris with a cute Amelie-type love story with a dashing butcher named Christoph.  You. Will. Die.   It is the most perfect meet-cute-avec-language-barrier ever and when they finally meet your little heart will pitter patter and when he meets her at her window every night at 8:30 you will think that it is something out of Gigi and …seriously! Best life ever .

She really has it. The best life.

But she also is incredibly talented.  To the point of being sickening.  The job she left was in advertising so we know she is savvy with words and the Etsy-inspired life she made for herself in Paris wrought the gorgeous Paris Letters: artfully crafted vignettes of the city accompanied by her water colours.   To add, she is a brilliant writer. Brilliant. Witty. Insightful.   Skip Eat Pray Love and its vague mystical wisdom on finding spiritual sustenance and hang out with MacLeod for a while. You will be glad you did.

She is funny and romantic and sees everything with fresh eyes. She walks. She eats. She engages.  She stumbles over foreign languages and yet is drawn to cultures. She is an introvert who puts on her “big girl” pants and steps outside of herself to engage with other humans. She is an artist. In every sense of the word

She is underwhelmed by the Mona Lisa and is brave enough to admit it.    She admits to traveler fatigue and cannot take another museum ( we have all been there; but we just wanna be cool. I remember a wonderful ramble a few years ago along the Liffey in Dublin when my brother and I –who were out tracking down Oscar Wilde everywhere --- admitted neither of us particularly enjoyed art galleries) and she is traipses forward: a sponge absorbing the weather, the customs, the architecture and never for one moment taking for granted her brilliant opportunity.  

Side note:  I am not speaking to Elizabeth Gilbert here so much as Elizabeth Gilbert as Portrayed by Julia Roberts.  That character in the movie drove me nuts. She gave up on her marriage, it seemed, engaged in an affair ---which didn’t work out and when the men in her life somehow no longer fit the piece to her complicated (whiny) puzzle she high tailed it off to live an outrageously wonderful existence in Italy with lots of pizza and the biggest problem of her life being she went up a size and had to buy new jeans.   The movie character drove me bonkers.  You will not find that here. Janice is awesome and level-headed. She will be your friend.

She will  be your friend.  She gives you deep and intimate insight into her failures and trials and triumphs. You will learn her flaws and giggle with her at them and you will learn her strengths and want to strive to have the same deft way of expressing new experiences and the same insight with which to observe and record people as she has.

When she finally takes the plunge and returns to Paris ( after stops in the UK and another stop in Italy to eat gelato with Marco. Le Sigh ) she finds love with the adorable Christoph –even as they still have to hurdle the language barrier and communication between them becomes far more than mere words.  They make a relationship work without always being able to understand.  That type of dedication speaks of a love so many people avoid erring on having to resound their side… their right… on ensuring they hear the sound of their own voice as they express their own platitudes.   It is sweet and frustrating for the reader and beguiling.   And, the best part, REAL LIFE.

I am someone who often believe romance evades us mere mortals and we are safest to find it between the pages of a novel --- but in MacLeod’s case: this is sheer kismet. Bliss.

She still updates her blog and you can see her past Paris Letters and subscribe here   (also pics of her adorable Polish Parisienne and their adorable wedding )

And then… the quotes…. The quotes, people.  These are things you just want to Pinterest the heck out of :

"I was already ratcheting down on friendships from the outer circle of my social sphere. I knew I would be leaving Los Angeles. It would make slipping out the back door easier."

"After I had peeled the bland Eucharist off the roof of my mouth and Quasimodo rang out the last bells of mass..."

"now I'm not one to go out on a limb and meet people. I'm introverted and crowds exhaust me. But sometimes you have to be the grown-up of your life and tell your inner child, who is kicking and screaming, "Get your shoes on! This is not optional! We have a play date""

"Christophe and I lived in the present, which is the only tense in French I could muddle through with a modicum of success. As we walked, I would look for scenes to photograph. he would look at me. During this time, I felt freer than before. I was just Janice in Paris."

"In his arms, I was in an eternal space where I craved to be forever. A man's love. I got it. I really got it. For two weeks, I really got what I hadn't been getting until this beautiful creature showed me. he never, ever kept me guessing. He never, ever kept me waiting. He always showed up."

"Janice, the only way to find happiness is to find people with whom you can eat, drink and laugh. That is all. That is everything."

"For them, work is a way to afford life" (she speaks of Italians) "...but not a definition of who you are".

"By the time I reached Venice, I could do nothing but sigh from exhaustion. Luckily, I was in good company. The entire city of Venice seemed like it was sighing, as if it was also tired of holding itself together. With the coming and going of tides, the pastel buildings slowly rose and sank from the verdant watery grave. "

"Christophe was the only man I dated with whom I could not contort my own personality to create his fantasy girl, simply because I didn't have the language skills with which to do so."

"He had even purchased matching robes, explaining that we should feel like we were on vacation all the time. And he had bought and assembled new furniture, including a wardrobe."

"Paris does something to a person. It unleashes the pent-up romantic."

On Christophe understanding her Paris letters enterprise: "It's for joy." He got it. "Oui. Mail for joy."

On rose: "I considered it wine-lite. It was sweet, cold and... did I mention sweet? And after a few sips, there was a sense that this grape Kool-aid was a bit"

"We must each know how to design our lives. We are all artists and each day is a canvas."

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