Paris Book Review: Flaneuse: Women Walk the City


From regular contributor Betty Guernsey:

The verb “flâner” – a particularly French concept roughly meaning to wander the streets, and its corresponding noun “flâneur” roughly meaning one who peers behind facades, investigates dark corners, and penetrates into secret courtyards – are also both words attaching themselves to the city of Paris.

In her new book “Flâneuse: Women Walk the City in Paris, New York, Tokyo, Venice, and London”, American-born writer Lauren Elkin explains why “flâneurs” were historically always men, and how as women emancipated, how they too gained the right to walk the streets (and travel) on their own.

As examples she chooses French writer George Sand, French filmmaker Agnès Varda, and French artist Sophie Calle, among others, whose lives and careers were not merely shaped but influenced by this hard-won freedom to be themselves in public places.

I would personally have enjoyed the book more had I not felt too much digression, often at great length, on histories and observations largely unrelated to the subjects at hand. That said, my suspicions are that author Elkin (now a bona fide Parisienne) is herself the ultimate flâneuse, in the punk tutu.

Merci beaucoup, Betty!

Readers — are you a flâneuse (or flâneur)?

Paris via New York, French Artists and their Muses


From Betty Guernsey, a frequent contributor to What’s New in Paris:

This December, two major shows for the festive season shine the spotlight on Cézanne, Picasso, and two of the women who inspired them. At the Metropolitan Museum of Art, “Madame Cézanne” lends fascinating insight into Hortense Fiquet, who began her liaison with the artist in Paris in l869 and became his wife in 1886, 17 years later. Over the course of their relationship, she was his most painted model – the exhibit features 24 of his 29 known portraits of her, mirroring the subtle gradations in the development of his much-revered style (November 19 – March 15).

Picasso & Jacqueline” (October 31 – January 10) spreads itself over two locations of the Pace Gallery, 534 West 25th and 32 East 57th – Chelsea showing portraits and photos, 57th Street mainly drawings. With Picasso it was a case of constantly changing muses; this one zeroes in on the last woman in his life, Jacqueline Roque, whom he met in Vallauris in 1952 when he was 70 and she 25. Picasso may have mellowed, but not lost his prolific touch – his hundreds of portraits of Jacqueline, who became his wife in 1961, are witty and above all, entertaining.

Un grand merci, Betty!

Have you seen these shows? We’d love to hear what you think!

Paris via New York—La Maison du Croque Monsieur


Artist, and cookbook and guidebook author Betty Guernsey is a frequent contributor to this blog. Here’s her latest find:

It’s not at all hard to imagine yourself on the Boulevard St-Mich’, at La Maison du Croque Monsieur, 17 East 13th Street in the Village – partly because it’s smack in the middle of NYU and New School territory, and partly because of its ambience, two narrow floors lined with clever cut-paper portraits of Anais Nin and the men in her life (Henry Miller, husband Hugo, Lawrence Durrell, Edmund Wilson, Gore Vidal, Antonin Arnaud).

In this tiny establishment, classic Croque Monsieur is the M. Henry, Croque Madame is Mme Anais, with another dozen or so croques named in honor of the various lovers.

All are made with pain de mie, and there’s even a menu of specialty breakfast croques served until 11 am.

The croques are formidable, the prices raisonnable — little wonder it’s become an instant hit with students or locals with tablets or laptops, working their way through the menu with a glass of red or white win or a mug of La Colombe coffee on the side.

Merci mille fois, Betty!

Dear readers: Have you eaten at La Maison du Croque Monsieur? What’s your favorite croque?