Book Review: Stuff Parisians Like

Irreverently funny, author Olivier Magny takes on the psyche of the “local” Parisians, dissects it and delivers a hilarious read. I received a recommendation for Magny when performing research for my trip to Paris (2011) on places to taste wine by fellow blogger Julie Gilley. Olivier Magny is the brains and taste buds behind Ô Chateau Wine Bar and Wine Tasting. The website for Ô Chateau Wine Bar contained an excerpt from one of Magny’s blog posts which compelled me to read one of his entries. I barely made it through the first page laughing so hard I had tears in my eyes. I figured if reading one page was that funny, then I should order his book Stuff Parisians Like: Discovering the Quoi in the Je Ne Sais Quoi.

Years of wondering why the French seem to hate the United States one minute, then covet everything from fashion to films the next suddenly made sense after reading this book. The French feel the need to win the conversation, “Winning conversations is a matter of dignity in Paris. If you merely partake in a conversation, you are a loser. If you lose a conversation, you are humiliated. You need to win.” Furthermore, according to Magny Parisians will argue one point of view one day and just the opposite another day when conversing with a different audience. He says, “Some may consider this duplicity. In Paris, it’s called brilliance.” Hilarious!

The tendency of certain people in our families to complain is not their fault. It’s part of their French DNA and after reading this book I can say it’s pretty amusing that the art of complaining “in Paris is foolproof: You’re not happy but you’re smart. You’re not happy because you are smart.” Of course, that explains everything!

I am One Quarter French and love to sail, my husband is 3/5 French and loves to sail so I believe that what is written about the relationship between Parisians and sailors is quite true. Magny writes, “Sailing is something a Parisian cannot not like. Sailing is elegant and poetic. It is therefore Parisian.” My husband subscribes to this idea, “Nothing impresses a Parisian more than someone who left everything to go sail around the world: this is every Parisian’s vision of happiness.” Mr. Weekend In Paris would sell everything if I agreed and live aboard our Hallberg Rassy sailboat and travel the world home-schooling our children. I love the boat for a couple of days at a time but I am claustrophobic and dislike being wet for prolonged periods of time. So, no we won’t be sailing the seven seas anytime soon. Of course it’s okay with my husband maybe because, as like Magny says, Parisian women like me who can’t handle to be uncomfortable and wet just comforts Parisian men “in the belief of their intellectual and poetic superiority over their materialistic female counterpart. This will make Parisian men love these Parisian women even more.” He must love me a lot then, right?!

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