Years before winning the Pulitzer Prize for his definitive history of the Vietnam War, Vietnam: A History, Stanley Karnow lived in Paris as a young reporter. The man who was later to be renowned for his thorough research and crisp prose had to begin somewhere, and Karnow had the incredible good fortune to make his way as a foreign correspondent for Time magazine in the 1950s. His original dispatches to Time's New York office make up a majority of Paris in the Fifties.
By simply calling this collection Paris in the Fifties, however, Karnow has done himself a great injustice. His treatise on the City of Light is more a biography of a city and its culture than it is a mere look at a time and place. Ever wonder where the modern-day restaurant had its origin, or what happened to the French aristocracy after the ravages of the Revolution, or even how the French maintain their status at the forefront of culture--be it food, wine, art, or fashion? Karnow provides the answers and then some. His descriptions are as rich as they are comprehensive, all the while depicting how the French savoir vivre--the zest for life that Paris symbolizes for all of us--withstood the horrors of World War II and the destabilization of society as everyone knew it. This wonderful book is reassurance that no matter what modern threats to culture may come, toujours Paris: we'll always have Paris. And that is true comfort to any expatriate at heart. --Courtenay Kehn