For all the talk about Paris being the City of Love, there's probably just as much truth to it being the City of Heartbreak. Author (and Popupla contributor) Courtney Maum's debut novel, , is a reverse love story set in the French capital.
Our hero, Richard Haddon, is actually no hero at all. A failed monogomist, uninspired artist, and poor sod all around, he wafts in and out of existential crises, alienates friends, and makes misguided attempts to woo his wife back. The backdrop to this mess of an existence? The galleries of the Pompidou and Premier Regard, the streetlamps near the Place de la Concorde, the top level of the Bateaux Mouches. Paris never looked better.
On the occasion of her launch, Courtney put together a literary tour of Paris haunts through book excerpts.
"You might have been the person that girl was smiling in response to as she crossed that same bridge on her cell phone. Or you might be a man in a shitty French export engaged in a discussion about liquid yogurt with his wife. Paris is a city of a hundred million lights, and sometimes they flicker. Sometimes they go out."
“They've got me set up in Bourdelle's old studio, where I'll be in residence for a week, sitting there with the book. Each person can come in one by one and sit with me, and I'll just pick up with the questions from where I left off with the last person. Anyway, he said, nodding toward the flyer. You should come! I'm really excited about it.”
"We went up to the museum's sixth-floor restaurant, a pompous place called Georges that was famous for its egg-shaped eating compartments and the extra-long-stemmed roses jutting up from each table. There were nothing but windows all around. From our silver table, we had a spectacular view of the right bank."
"I wanted to ask her so many other questions. Do you really think so? Would you love me more? But instead, we both fell silent as we approached the majestic white-and-gold bridge that graced the entrance to the Invalides."
"No one explains that six years into it, a simple request to Pick up a half pound of ground turkey and maybe some organic leeks? on your way home is going to send the free, blue sky crashing down like a pillory around your neck, see you clutching your paper number at the butcher's, ashamed to be just another sucker bringing white meat home."
"I walked up the steep hill past one of the branches of La Sorbonne, in the direction of the Luxembourg Gardens. I was swinging my briefcase. I had bounce in my step: my afternoon was a musical, and Paris was my stage. I made it all the way to the fountains at the entrance before I realized that I simply could not contain my enthusiasm, I had to tell my wife."
"I took her to the zoo nestled in the center of the Jardin des Plantes, which would have been depressing had I not had a five-year-old in hand."
"I took her for a lemon butter crepe at Le Train Bleu, the most beautiful restaurant in Paris, if not France. Perched on the second story of the titanic Lyon train station, the space was a gilded celebration of arched ceilings, frenetic molding, champagne buckets, and glitz."
"After that, I trudged up to the command post of the aging glitterati, a gilded seafood slash cocktail palace called the Dôme. I ordered a severely overpriced dish of shrimp and a half carafe of rosé, an unfashionable wine choice for the time of year, a fact my judicious waiter had the tact not to point out."
"The Hippo chain by the opera was just a short walk from the Pulp, and even though the quality of meat was far from exemplary and the place was full of bloated men in metallic blazers who had pilgrimaged there from the nearby strip clubs, we loved the contagious charm of the provincial waiters and the endless cuts of steak that would appear alongside a bowl of frites and sizzling vegetables as soon as we had ordered."
"When I was living in Providence, I was friends with a group of graffiti artists who called themselves the Danger Five. Esoteric more than dangerous, the specialized in re-creating scenes from children's books that possessed some undercurrent of horror."
"We'd had soup before the entrée, and a cheese and salad course after that — there were a lot of dishes to be done. I suspected that the time had come for me and Mr. B to have a little chat. Sure enough, as the women began to clear the table, Monsieur asked if I wouldn't like to see their garden in more detail. (Inès is simply a wizard with outdoor plants!)"
"After my morning coffee, I'd lope around the Canal Saint- Martin area where the neighborhood's graffiti artists sprayed their tags underneath the street artist Invader's famous ceramic space aliens, looking for another direction in which to take my filming, something that had nothing to do with romance."
"The metal footbridge that led directly to the Louvre had chain-link guardrails that were covered —garroted, really — by thousands of padlocks. Lovers, tourists mainly, came to this spot to commemorate their devotion by writing their names on a padlock and locking it to the bridge."
Courtney Maum's reverse love story, , chronicles one man's attempt to woo back his wife in the city of Paris. Just for us, the author paired a tour of the story's many Parisian haunts with excerpts from the book.