Interview with Lauren Elkin, Author of Flâneuse

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Interview with Lauren Elkin, Author of Flâneuse
Author Lauren Elkin recently published Flâneuse: Women Walk the City in Paris, New York, Tokyo, Venice and London. She will be speaking at Shakespeare & Company bookstore on September 13 at 7pm. Find out more here. What originally brought you to Paris? I came to Paris to study abroad and fell in love with it; I came back a few years later as a research assistant, then returned a few years after that to do a masters in French literature at the Sorbonne, and that time I ended up staying. Can you discuss your writing career and background a bit? My background is in scholarly research, but when I was in graduate school I started writing book reviews and fiction, and writing in my journal all the time, and keeping a blog about daily life in Paris. Those last two forms of writing were very important ways of learning to write – I didn’t study creative writing in college or do an MFA. The journal forced me to write and made me get so much better at it, but I knew I was writing stuff that no one would ever read. It was very different writing for the blog, which was especially good training for writing things about myself that other people would read. I think my age group (born in the late 70s) was lucky in a lot of ways – blogs didn’t exist until we were old enough not to embarrass ourselves too badly by keeping them, and they enabled us – or me in any case – to make contact with a lot of like-minded people, and to figure out how, exactly, to tell a story, to move from the actual event to the account of it on the page. I developed a sense for what about a story made it interesting, how to strip out the filler and get a sense for what was really happening in the exchange – socially, culturally, personally. This is less a question of shaping a piece of writing to please an audience, and more a question of its audience shaping the cast of it, somehow. Why do you think so many writers come to Paris? I think to some extent it’s a question of legacy – writers and artists flocked to Paris in the early and mid-twentieth century* – and partly a question of how livable a city Paris can be. It offers a really wonderful quality of life and isn’t that expensive if you know how to do it – which markets to shop in, what kind of coffee to get, what kind of restaurants to go to. There’s a learning curve for sure but once you crack it (the internet is a big help here) it lends itself very well to the writerly lifestyle, where the work happens while you sit in a café for hours over one tiny cup of coffee.** There are also beautiful libraries that are free to use. *It’s worth noting that American writers and artists came to Paris in the 20s because of the favorable exchange rate, and throughout the century because it offered certain freedoms that they couldn’t find at home – I’m thinking particularly of black and/or gay writers like Richard Wright, James Baldwin, Gertrude Stein, or Djuna Barnes. **I wouldn’t recommend sitting in the cafe from morning til the end of the day – they will probably want to do a lunch service and they’ll make you feel pretty uncomfortable if you’re squatting without eating. What current project(s) are you working on? I’ve been writing my second novel for longer than I’d like to admit, but which I kept putting aside for academic projects, or Flâneuse, mainly for financial reasons. So I’m trying to get back to that. I’m in the end-stages of revising a flâneuse-y book about a year of riding the bus in Paris. And I’m working on a few essays – some academic (one on Virginia Woolf and Chris Kraus!), some not. What is your favorite thing(s) to do in Paris on a lazy Saturday? I love the brocantes and the flea markets so much. I’ll stroll through a brocante if there’s one near where I live, in Belleville, but a real luxury is to take the afternoon and go up to the Puces de Clignancourt or down to the Porte de Vanves. I just bought a flat and am slowly tracking down the various bits and pieces of things I want to decorate it – at the moment I’m in the market for a massive gilded mirror and a set of old steamer trunks. I’m always looking for vintage cocktail glasses, and I have this dream of replacing or at least supplementing my Ikea and Habitat silverware with a set of really beautiful silver cutlery. I also love these little Schweppes dishes that I use for everything from putting out snacks at an apéro to feeding the dog, and I always keep an eye out for enamel jugs and Iittala Kastehelmi goblets. Oh god I sound so bougie. But this is what I like to do on the weekend. In my defense, my grandmother was an interior decorator… Do you think you’ll ever move back to the U.S.? I’d happily go back for a little while for a residency or to teach, but Paris is my home. Who are some of your favorite writers and why? I…

Lead photo credit : Author Lauren Elkin

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Anne McCarthy is a contributing writer to BBC News, Teen Vogue, The Telegraph, Dance Magazine, and more. She has a Masters in Creative Writing from the University of Westminster and is the Editor in Chief of Fat Tire Tours’ travel blog. She lives in New York City.


  • r
    2019-10-09 04:44:48
    Bien qu'aucune titres sont sur la ligne pour les Bella Twins, les s?urs ennemies ont pris leurs problèmes familiaux à un tout nouveau niveau après Nikki a exigé que Brie abandonner son nom de famille, disant qu'elle est une honte pour la famille.


  • Lori Zimmer
    2018-01-09 22:59:20
    Lori Zimmer
    Randomly came across this interview when researching Paris- immediately ordered the book. Can't wait to read it!


  • Parisbreakfast
    2016-09-16 05:57:58
    Loved hearing your book on the BBC Lauren. Superb. So sorry to have missed you at Shakesp & Co! Cheers Carolg