July 31, 2007


Stephen Clarke can find humor in messy situations: The British author's humorous insights into life in Paris have translated into bestsellers. Hey, it happens. (Marjorie Miller, 7/31/07, LA Times)

So many writers come to France to write, and so many of them make la merde out of their careers, but British author Stephen Clarke is the only one I know of who has made a career out of la merde. Three books worth, to be precise: "A Year in the Merde," "Merde Actually" and, published in Britain this month, "Merde Happens." (It's scheduled to be published in the United States next May, according to his agent, although the impatient can order it through Amazon UK). These humorous novels are a hit in French airports and have made it onto various bestseller lists, giving Clarke a reputation as an outsider who actually, more or less, gets the French.

His first two titles are knockoffs of "A Year in Provence" and "Love Actually," but the excrement part is his alone, taken from the ubiquitous dog droppings on the sidewalks of Paris and the fact that his main character, Paul West, is constantly stepping into it, literally and figuratively.

West is a 27-year-old Brit who comes to Paris in the first book to help his French boss open a chain of tearooms. He runs up against the French "work culture," with a lot of cheek kissing and long meetings that result in very little. He experiences the fine art of stalling, encounters world-class French bureaucrats and has a few liaisons dangereuses, including one with his boss' daughter, before striking out on his own.

Trying to get The Wife to read the first one, as she's gotten a bee in her bonnet about taking a family trip to that hellhole, despite making my views rather clear.

Posted by Orrin Judd at July 31, 2007 7:38 AM

I think in preparation for the trip all the Judds, pere included mais oui, need to be enrolled in some language and culture courses at the nearest Alliance Francaise -- I believe there's one in Manchester and of course in Boston.

A few tips from a long ago family trip I was forced on as a teen -- avoid Paris as much as possible, especially if it's the summer, too hot and crowded -- great places to visit though are Mont St. Michel, Carcassonne, and St. Remy/Arles.

Posted by: Jim in Chicago at July 31, 2007 9:10 AM

Think of all the people whose virtual lives depend on you. Be careful and come back safe.

Posted by: erp at July 31, 2007 9:54 AM

OJ, try to talk her into going to Japan instead. The people are very polite, clean, and helpful. And it's about $2000 per person for three weeks if you do it right....

Posted by: Robert Mitchell Jr. at July 31, 2007 10:47 AM

Make a trip to EuroDisney part of the deal. You can take a train from Paris and, once you get there, it's Disney with beer.

Posted by: Ibid at July 31, 2007 10:47 AM

I'm told that Normandy is the place to go, as the locals are all very welcoming to Americans. I'd also want to see the Chartres cathedral.

Paris -- I've already seen the good parts watching Ratatouille.

Posted by: Mike Morley at July 31, 2007 10:48 AM

Airbus or Boeing?

Posted by: jim hamlen at August 1, 2007 4:58 PM