mardi, novembre 16, 2004


I once correctly guessed, when presented with several options, that the French culture was closest to:

The Germans

The Chinese

The Japanese

The Americans

Can you?

It's the Japanese. What led me to this, other than just being incredibly clever, was that there are several formalities that the French must observe upon greeting each other. There are forms of address for those you don't know, for those you do, for those close in age to you whom you don't necessarily know, but who you might as well since you are automatically in the same category, for your boss, for the shopkeeper, etc. This always of course followed by niceties such as how are you, how is your family, did you enjoy your obscure Catholic holiday off, is your digestive system working properly, etc. Most of the formality has to do with the formal or informal 'you' , but some of it concerns whether you shake hands, don't, or kiss each other on the cheek. Then there is what region of France you come from and how many times you kiss on the cheek (two in Paris, three in the South, four in some parts, etc.)

I was aware of this before coming, but of course I make mistakes all the time. I tend to guess wrong with the informal and formal 'you.' I learned at the French Alliance long ago that you should never use the informal for someone you don't know unless they give you permission, but I suppose my problem is that now I am in an age group that borders on automatically being formal, but teeters on the edge of the French equivalent of "whassup" for those a little younger than me. I have made countless twenty somethings feel old by addressing them with "vous" and offended a handful of thirtysomethings by being so presumptious as to say "tu." Some people I can't get used to saying "tu" to once I've been given permission, so I end up switching back and forth, which adds to the already perplexing impression I must give.

This I came prepared for. What I remained unaware of is the apparently very pressing need for French people to acknowledge you first off with a "bonjour" - but ONLY ONCE. If you have said "bonjour" the first time you see or speak to a person, by no circumstances within that same 12 hour period are you to say "bonjour" again without categorically, absolutely, acknowledging that you have already done so by emphatically and loudly saying "RE!" (pronounced 'ruh') - as in, "Hello - AGAIN!" As if saying "hello" the exact same way you said it the first time would completely negate, nay, add injury to, to the first acknowledgement. I have not yet got the hang of this, as I don't quite know how to re-acknowledge someone correctly. I can't bring myself to say the "RE!" because it isn't innate for me that to say "bonjour" a second time would be a problem. I will see someone at the office, for example, say "bonjour," and then get a phone call from them an hour later. I mostly make the mistake of saying "bonjour" again, because this, if you follow me people, is hello, and where I come from, you can say hello til the cows come home. Invariably, there is a slight pause. I know what is coming. A slightly ironic, inner smiling, faintly patronizing, we-all-know-about-this-now-don't-we-dear "RE!"

I think I'll stick with "oui", although it feels a bit too much like, yeah, you, whom I already deigned to address, whaddya want?

dimanche, novembre 14, 2004

Don't Tell

I am trying to write a novel. I decided to take up the challenge of writing 50,000 words before the end of November. There is a contest for bloggers to use the blogging site to put up a site of their novel and register it. If you are one of the people who reach the target, then, well, I don't really know what happens, except you are overjoyed that you just wrote a novel.

So I created a site for mine (see link at right) and have started to rework a piece I started a while back. There is a section for comments, and since I registered my site on the register, any other participant can come and read it, make comments or send encouraging emails.

The other day, I found this comment from a helpful reader. Nan, from California, who won a few little prizes for her erotic writings, sent me this:

I've noticed that there is a difference in the formality of language that you use for your main character's thoughts and for her dialogue. I like the flow of the dialogue and I think you should include more of it in the story. I think that there is too much telling the reader what is happening and not enough showing, so if you have a paragraph giving us the characters' thoughts or emotions, consider using the characters to show us with their dialogue. I also was curious about the main character's sexual response to this man. She sleeps with him, although you cut from the passionate kiss to the morning after. I think you could show us a bit more of their physical relationship, particularly if you are going to have her make comments like "I made love to a baron."

Good luck with this; the story seems to have promise.


Hmm. Um, thanks, Nan. Really.

samedi, novembre 13, 2004

Sweet and Smelly - let's convene!

Now I thought I came from a convention city, but Paris wins hands down. Almost every day I see a poster for a new one.

There has been a convention for:

The Singles Life

Out of Print Books

New Construction Houses

Gays and Lesbians

The Automobile

and my two favorites:




lundi, novembre 01, 2004

Romance Standard Time

Yesterday I met a man in the Cafe Le Zimmer with salt and pepper hair. I liked his angular jaw and cheekbones. He was an architect, and as he put it, came from a family of heroes. One WWI and one WWII hero, and an imposing mother who, being widowed at 40, went back to school and became one of the Louvre's experts on Renaissance art.

We talked of life and love and dreams and lessons learned until there wasn't anything else we could conceive of ordering at the cafe, having gone through a Croque Monsieur, caramel and chocolate ice cream, three coffees and two different kinds of water.

He took me to dinner at one of those ultra chic places that have no obvious entrance from the street, ostensibly to attract only those who already know where it is, and to discourage the curious, perhaps undesirable, passerby.

He has a lovely deep voice and smooth long fingers. He is elegant and thoughtful. We have made plans for dinner next week.

I came home and changed the time on my laptop to accommodate Daylight Saving Time. The zone Paris belongs to? Romance Standard Time.