Dreaming in French

Dreaming in French

The Paris Years of Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy, Susan Sontag, and Angela Davis

Book - 2012
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Publisher: Chicago : University of Chicago Press, 2012
ISBN: 9780226424385
Branch Call Number: 944.361 KAPLAN
Characteristics: x, 289 p. : ill. ; 24 cm


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May 13, 2018

How does isolation in a foreign language, culture, and social behavior prepare people for better living ? A study year in Paris influenced Jacqueline Bouvier, Susan Sontag and Angela Davis. Alice Kaplan packs three biographies, formative years before they knew how it was going to turn out. Could I stand Bouvier's breathy blandishments ?
Meant to teach culture and sophistication, this perk for the moneyed often wound into grand tour and status brag. Many rose to the challenge, turned school French into fluency, immersion into curiosity, self reliance, and often later, character transformation.
Without cavil or hardship, Jackie groomed as ornament of the republic, for trophy marriage and later the Camelot White House. Subsidized above everyday demands, she was parachuted into publishing. She wrote little beyond fond notes, yet her estate clamped all material and any bio.
Kaplan finds Claude de Renty, her host companion of Paris years. Like Jackie, she skipped from success to prestige without salary negotiation or references. Impromptu didn't fit their regime. Even their road trip through France felt chaperoned by determination for destiny.
Sontag and Davis lacked ivy league connections. Sontag chased her retreating lover, too self involved to learn French or discover the turmoil, political, social and economic reported in the press. In 1959, their expat cocoon fled Paris fearing political street action. Later, presenting advanced philosophies in the US, she cultivated French perspectives. Remarkable that in 1993, she produced Waiting For Godot in Sarajevo under Serbian siege and daily barrage.
Odds make Davis' story the liveliest. In their teens, Angela and sister Fania practiced French to prat the color bar in Birmingham, Alabama. Pretending to be foreigners, exempt from Southern discrimination, they were served in a whites only store downtown. When Angela headed to New York for university, she read Fanon, Sartre, Camus. In Paris, she discussed complex issues and practical philosophical explanations. She extended her reading to Foucault, Derrida, Deleuze, the moderns.
Though recent terrorist attacks had swept France, the 1963 church bombing in Birmingham near her parents' home shocked all with the murders of four little girls.
Although she was treated respectfully, Angela soon found that the French discriminated against Algerians and colonial immigrants as harshly as southern Americans condemned blacks. Both used menial work and prisons as extensions of slavery and colonial oppression. Although Angela meters her public comments, her intelligent analysis invites controversy. She and others have not been purchased into quiet.
Kaplan interviews room mates and French home stay providers. Is it ironic that the progressives were housed by right wing regressives hungry for the extra income ?
Filtering scenes experienced then, she polishes meanings for us. She's a writer gifted with understanding.

May 24, 2014

I didn't like this book because it wasn't fiction.

fairboy Sep 19, 2012

This went completely over my head.


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