Friday, July 24, 2009

A Year in the MERDE

For the last several months I have been seeing Stephen Clarke's book A Year in the Merde everywhere. It's as though this book was following me. I have befriended a few authors in Paris and inevitably their copy of the paperback would boldly stand out amongst all the other books crammed on their shelves.

Even in the Abbey Bookshop, where the books are stacked in every conceivable corner, Merde is the only book I actually remember seeing. And by the way, for those of you who haven't yet made a trek into the Abbey, let me give you a brief description. It's design is "male professor with a love of books and no woman to say hey clean up this mess." The shop is tiny and cluttered without any sense of organization whatsoever. Frankly, that's what gives this unusual store its sense of charm. New and used books are stacked across almost every square inch of the shop leaving only a tiny aisle to peruse the piles. Don't eat any donuts or you may not be able to make it through. Thankfully, even amongst this organized chaos, Merde was visible for all to see. I took it as a sign that this was a book I needed to read. And boy am I glad I listened to the Universe on this one.

The first page shares with readers Clarke's biography. "Stephen Clarke is a British journalist and writer working for a French press group in Paris." Ok, that sounds very bio-esque. Then his flair for comedy starts to unfurl, "A Year in the Merde is an almost-true account of things that may or may not have happened to him in the ten years he has lived in France, depending on who is asking the question." And this is part of his bio!  Clearly, he was one cool dude and I liked his style immediately.

Needless to say, Merde is a laugh-out-loud hilarious account of a Brit's jump into a bath of miscommunications and cultural differences when he moves to Paris for a year. Why does the waiter decide to go on a 13-hour strike in the middle of serving the protagonists' lunch, but still demands to be paid for his services? Why is it that totally unqualified employees can't be fired in France? And why do the women think our hero is a nice Englishman, when all he wants is a roll in the hay?

To find out the answers to these questions and more, just pick up a copy. I assure you this book can be found at any of the English speaking bookstores in Paris.

Thank you for reading and bonne journée!