Unfortunately, I least like Gopnik's writing when he speaks of cooking, particularly French cooking. Of all the things about which Gopnik speaks, cooking is the one onwhich I may be most fit to comment. Check out my past arguments here on his cooking chapter in Paris to the Moon.
For that reason alone, I have to take all of his writing with a grain of salt. Nevertheless I enjoy most of what he writes about Paris and suspect he's more on the mark where his strengths are greater than mine. Perhaps, that's only a product of my ignorance in those same areas.
Menton's "absolutely LOVED every word of Michael Saunders 'From Here, You Can't See Paris'. Probably also because I love the South-West of France, as well."
together with John Whiting's comments about Gopnik's suspected inability to slip easily into the life of a French village are key points in my understanding John's lack of appreciation for Gopnik. Gopnik is an urban intellectual who earns his living talking to other urban intellctuals who associate ideas, talents and accomplishments with individuals who have names and whose names have meaning to a large, even international, community. Gopnik and I share an environment that is apt to make us unfit to easily slip into the life of a French village. As a result, perhaps, I don't see that as a failing. I've not been brought up to believe the mark of a good man is his ability to slip easily into the life of a French village.
French villagers drop names like Geroges, Henri and Pierre all the time. We just have no reference points for the names.
The issue of missed opportunities in childraising is perhaps a bit removed from this forum, but one that interests me deeply, having missed many of them in my day both as child and a parent. The one thing I don't regret is not having my child accept the norm as normal. Nevertheless, you do a disservice by implying Gopnik's life in Paris was abnormal, or that he spend much time or money in luxurious surroundings. I suspect it was the normal life of an intellectual ex-pat American on assignment in Paris drawing a middle class salary. What parent would saddle his five year old child with the undermining sense that they life he led was not a normal one.
Few of us are above bending the facts to make our posts more interesting. My guess is that I don't finish reading many of the posts that don't make an attempt to be interesting. John's posts are always interesting.