City Paper is not for tourists
Over the weekend Georgetown alum Dinaw Mengestu—-author of a good-but-not-great D.C. novel, The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears—-had a nice piece in the Wall Street Journal about how lonely it is these days being an American writer in Paris. Yes, part of the problem is how badly the dollar measures up against the Euro; to hear Mengestu tell it, a cup of coffee will now run you more than $7.50 there. But the bigger issue, he argues, is that France is much more Americanized now—-making it less interesting as an escape hatch for disillusioned American bohos:
A recent walk along Boulevard St. Germain with a French book editor and friend quickly became an exercise in nostalgia as he tried to recall the names of some of the smaller family-owned stores that had dominated the street before the explosion of French and foreign chain stores took over; “None of this was here,” being the phrase he used most often to describe what’s happened since. Perhaps even more emblematic is the decidedly pro-American business model of the current president, Nicolas Sarkozy (aka “Sarko L’Americain” as he’s sometimes mocked in the French media), whose attempts to adjust the retirement age of civil servants and squeeze more efficiency out of the government have been met with massive nationwide strikes that seem aimed more at holding on to the remnants of a vanishing culture than challenging the logic of the policy.
About a decade ago, if you were a slacker-bohemian type, Prague was where you wanted to be. Now, Mengestu says that Buenos Aires is the place to go—-somebody bring the news to Williamsburg, where the townies have got to be sick of gypsy bands by now.