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After writing the authoritative Vietnam: A History, Stanley Karnow has chosen a more fanciful era for his new book, Paris in the Fifties. The memoir is set in a France recovering from wartime occupation, rationing food, and, as it turned out, enjoying a cultural popularity not seen since. Karnow stumbled upon a cozy post-Harvard education peppered with mentors to the aimless young writer who set out to spend a summer and stayed 10 years. James Baldwin fans will recognize the landscape from Giovanni’s Room and find new trivia in Karnow’s fortunate meetings with a laundry list of literati, including Sartre, Camus, Dior, and expatriates such as Hemingway and Baldwin himself. While tramping through the countryside, Karnow got to indulge his yen for haute couture and cuisine as the French adjusted to and rejected their new role as a country sans world power. It’s no surprise that the now-Pulitzer Prize-winning writer returns to his naive youth, when France was emptying its gunpowder on Vietnam and America was setting up to learn a terrible lesson. At 6 p.m. at the Library of Congress’ James Madison Building, Mumford Room, 1st & Independence Ave. SE. FREE. (202) 707-5221. (GE)