In my wanderings, I come across an Avenue Rapp. We had an editor at National Review, Cris Rapp. The avenue is named after Jean Rapp, a Napoleonic general. If I had my way, I would name a street after Cris Rapp — one of the all-time greats. (Working for Bill Buckley, he worked for a much better man than Jean Rapp did.)
(I know, I know, General Rapp supposed himself to be working for France. Whatevsky . . .)
Somewhere off the Avenue Rapp, I buy a crêpe complète, from a modest stand. But there’s not much modest about the crêpe: filled — laced — with ham, egg, and cheese. Liked to’ve died.
On the Boulevard Raspail, there is a Casa Lopez, which sells tasteful rugs. I think of our famed editor Kathryn. National Review Online is, in a sense, a Casa Lopez.
At a soirée in one of the nicer arrondissements, I meet a man named Bill Browder. I say to him, “‘Browder,’ like Earl?” Turns out that Bill is the grandson of Earl Browder, onetime leader of the CPUSA — the American Communist party. Bill Browder is a businessman, and a highly successful one. Used to do a lot in Russia. He puts the matter memorably: His grandfather was the biggest Communist in America; he himself became one of the biggest capitalists in Russia. Life can be amusing.
But this is not so amusing: Bill’s lawyer in Russia was murdered — tortured to death, I believe. Bill dedicates much of his time to the cause of human rights in Russia.
Just when you think that Paris might — just might — be overrated, you visit again: and you rediscover, “No way — if anything, it’s under-.” Year after year, decade after decade, generation after generation, it remains a delight to the eye, mouth, and ear. Paul Johnson is one of our cruisers — one of our special guests. Like Priscilla Buckley, he worked here as a journalist. Paris was down at the heels then — recovering from war and occupation. He remarks on how prosperous the city looks today. It just glitters.
About the banlieues — those “strife-riven” suburbs — we can speak another time . . .
I really don’t like national stereotypes, or generalizations about peoples and nations, even when they’re positive: “The Irish are excellent storytellers,” etc. But I feel like making a statement, so I think I’ll just go ahead: All of my life, I’ve loved being in France, and among French people — not just in small cities and towns, and in the countryside, but in the capital itself.
“Well, aren’t French elites ferociously anti-American?” you might say. A lot of them are — but that is common throughout Western Europe. “Well, don’t you meet people who are vain, godless, immoral, and self-loving?”
Oh, baby, you don’t have to leave home for that . . .
I think I’ll knock off for today, and do a final installment tomorrow. Thanks for putting up with these idiosyncratic (to choose a polite word) jottings. See you.