Okay, so I don’t have whiskers or claws, but I’m in sympathy with my furry friend … I did one of my patented “I-don’t-know-why-I’m-picking-up-this-book” things a couple of months ago and came up with another book destined to become an old friend, and discovered a new author in the process. And I laughed so much that I think people were avoiding me with those “uh-oh, watch out for the wacko” looks …
The book in question is called “Talk to the Snail: Ten Commandments for Understanding the French”, and the author is a British ex-pat resident in France for over 12 years, Stephen Clarke. Clarke is also the author of the (ahem) Merde series of novels. (In case you don’t speak any French, merde in English is a word which rhymes with ‘spit’ and is frequently appended to the word ‘bull’. Not to offend anyone or anything, yanno?)
Clarke went to France on business and wound up staying. In the process he learned some valuable lessons about dealing with the French (in fairness, it sounds as though the French outside of Paris are not nearly so difficult to deal with as the Parisien variety, and it’s MOSTLY Paris he deals with in the book). You learn about the best way NOT to get served in a Paris restaurant or store, how to get a French bureaucrat to help you with a problem (look pitiful and regretful and explain that they’re your only hope), that it will do no good to complain if you happen to run into second-hand smoke, about French business meeting etiquette, and best of all, some extremely funny phrase-book sections at the end of each chapter.
I rarely buy books any more — except for reference stuff — but this one’s on my list. Not only is it eye-opening in a very acerbic, non-PC way I find refreshing, it’s knock-down, drag-out funny and if I ever do get to make that trip to Paris, it’s probably going to be in my hand or nearby the entire time.