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Paris Cafe: The Select Crowd

1 rating: 5.0
A book by Noel Riley Fitch

"A tribute so pleasant and persuasive that swarming tourists may make it difficult for Fitch and Tulka to find a table." --Kirkus    In this droll, delicious little volume,Fitch and Tulka provide an affectionate portrait of the Select … see full wiki

Author: Noel Riley Fitch
Publisher: Soft Skull Press
1 review about Paris Cafe: The Select Crowd

An inviting, real-life look at a legendary place

  • May 8, 2008
Author of a number of histories of literary Paris, as well as a study of Europe's "literary cafés," Noël Riley Fitch now does the trend of Americans writing about their favorite Parisian neighborhood one better by giving us a warm and charming portrait of her favorite Parisian café, Montparnasse's Le Sélect. Accompanied by wonderful illustrations (or, as the cover says, just "drawings") by Rick Tulka, this short book is an experience to savor, much like a trip to the café itself would be.

I've read a number of books over the last few months about Paris cafés, as my vicarious substitute for actually being in one. There's a great variety of such books, all trying in their own way to capture some of the ineffable (and perhaps exaggerated?) romantic charm of Parisian café-dom. Some are glossy photo albums, portraying cafés, brasseries, and restaurants in all their visual diversity. Others focus on the history of various cafés and their neighborhoods, while still others give us recipes designed to recreate café flavors and smells in our own homes. But "Paris Café: The Sélect Crowd" is the first such book I've seen that really takes a close, personal look at an author's own chosen café (in this case, one she shares with her illustrator). I found it a remarkably successful effort, and I feel like were I to visit Le Sélect someday, it wouldn't feel entirely foreign to me.

If I could improve anything, I might wish for more discussion of the people depicted in Tulka's evocative portraits, though there may not have been a way to do that while still respecting their privacy -- Le Sélect is, after all, a neighborhood institution. I also didn't particularly care for the odd covers and binding Soft Skull Press chose to clad this thing in: the cover is uniformly a quarter-inch wider than the pages inside, which made this somewhat awkward to hold. Besides that one wish and one complaint, however, this short book was a fine way to spend a few hours. I hope other authors rise to the challenge and produce similar looks at their own chosen café haunts.

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