Welcome to my book blog created 2012 of books I read and review. I exhausted space on my other blog and felt it better to separate my readings from my writings. Eventually I will display my entire library here. I am in the process of moving some reviews from the other blog here as well. The design of this blog is currently in transition, bear with me...
Friday, December 14, 2012
The Greater Journey Americans in Paris by David McCullough
The Greater Journey Americans in Paris by David McCullough published 2011,
460 pages, +76 pages source notes, +19 pages Index *****
The front jacket
This was one of my last reads in 2011 and appeared on my other blog last December. If I selected one book to be my very top nonfiction read of the year this marvelous, wondrous book must be it. I enjoy everything that McCullough writes with his intense research, reminiscent of James Michener. This book details the stories of the prominent and aspiring American artists, writers, doctors, pre-med students, politicians, architects and other professionals who go to Paris between 1830 and 1900 to study, learn and fine tune their skills while experiencing the broadening they believe can only come from Europe. The go to experience the "prestige of age" and they do so in a different way, Pg 20.."Even without the impertinence, the whole requirement of passports--the cost, the vexatious ceremony of it all was repugnant to the Americans. ....no one carried a passport in America, not even foreign visitors. " There is such a difference between the Europeans and the Americans and many of these travelers had never been away from home before, never experienced the older cultures, there was no guarantee of success. On pg 67 Nathaniel Willis describes his fascination with faces and how one could "always recognize an American.There was something distinctive about the American face, something he had never noticed until coming to Paris....the distinctive feature ...,the independent self possessed bearing of a man unused to look p to anyone as his superior in rank, united to the inquisitive, sensitive, communicative expression which is the index to our national character."
Inside the book cover
I learned so much reading this book that covers history of the time, the arts, artists and more about authors, for example James Fenimore Cooper was an advocate for Polish freedom. The famous pianist Louis Moreau Gottschalk launched his career in Paris at age 15. The experiences of George PA Healy, Samuel FB Morse, Elizabeth Blackwell, Oliver Wendel Holmes, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Mark Twain and Henry James are only a few of whom we read about in this volume. It is interesting to follow lives through the popular rise of the automobile.
I wondered why McCullough emphasized Augustus Saint Gaudens, the sculptor and on pg 455 in the Epilogue I learned that Homer St. Gaudens was the director of arts at the Carnegie Institute in Pittsburgh, PA. Likely more data was available through that resource and McCullough is from Pittsburgh. I could not pick one favorite tale in this book, the world's fair, the Eiffel tower, the revolutionaries. I shuddered reading about the early days of medical practice and how poor it was, even in Paris, where they went to learn. I wonder how much worse it was here in the states, lack of sanitation and so on at that time. This is a book I will keep and read again sometime, there is so much here. It is McCullough's latest contribution to we lovers of history and art.
5 ***** Not one my local book club is willing to tackle.