Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Paris, And Where You Are Right Now

I recently purchased a used copy of the book Literary Paris: A Guide, which profiles 30 writers who lived in Paris for significant chunks of their careers. Chock with black and white photographs or portraits of such wordsmiths as Hemingway, Stein and Gatsby, the book also goes into great detail concerning the specific cafes, bars or restaurants where they hung out. One author, George Orwell of Animal Farm and 1984 fame, complained that there were "more artists than residents" clogging the arteries of the city. It was the chic place to write and be seen; perhaps it still is in many regards.

The book reminds me of the bonus of having that special or sacred place to write, study, think...a setting with an ambiance that becomes part of the story, part of the journey.

But it also challenges me from another angle: to question whether an artist needs to rely on setting the table just so in order to satisfy his creative hunger. Most serious writers, including myself, occasionally fantasize about sitting in a Parisian cafe with a notepad or laptop, soaking in the sights while spinning a literary masterpiece. My hunch is that if I ever get to do so, it will be a neat experience...but that I will still have the same brain, the same fingers I see going tap tap tap right now, and likely the same laptop.

So what is the state of mind that artists are seeking to unleash when we imagine the streets of Paris as our suite of offices? And what holds us back from putting it into place in this present moment?


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