The iconic, strolling Paris flâneur of the 19th century often expressed his ironic observations of the spectacular city he loved in paint, prose and poetry. Celebrated artist-flâneurs like Honoré de Balzac, Charles Baudelaire and their 20th-century successors — from André Breton's surrealists to Jean-Paul Sartre's existentialists — have served up brilliant, if sometimes dark, images of the City of Light.
Now, following in their august footsteps, Berkeley writer and artist L. John Harris channels the historic flâneur with his witty café French "lessons" and whimsical illustrations taken from his Paris café journals.
While Café French proposes to guide fellow Francophiles on a journey into the cultural and linguistic codes and canons of Paris café culture, the author—with a dash of Dada—chronicles his own discoveries: the cafés he inhabits, the language he struggles to learn, the food he eats and the dreams he pursues in the city he loves.
In the end, Harris of Paris returns home to Berkeley where he transforms his journal entries and sketches into a curious curriculum. Café French, a delightful book that will instruct and amuse Paris newcomers and veterans alike — all who yearn for a taste of the flâneur's creative café lifestyle.
A native of Los Angeles, California, L. John Harris studied art at the University of California at Berkeley from 1965-1969. Through the 1970's, while working part time at some of Berkeley's legendary food businesses - the Cheese Board, Chez Panisse and The Swallow café - Harris worked as a journalist and wrote The Book of Garlic (1974) which inspired garlic festivals and garlic theme restaurants from California to New York. In 1981, Harris founded Aris Books, a specialty cookbook publisher and in 1988 launched his Foodoodle cartoon byline in several Bay Area magazines. Harris' most recent illustrated book, Café French: A Flâneur's Guide to the Language, Lore and Food of the Paris Café won the 2019 Paris Book Festival award in the travel book category. Harris lives in Berkeley, California in a 100-year-old Bernard Maybeck-designed residence (Villa Maybeck) that serves as a venue for cultural and musical events, many featuring his collection of historic guitars. He is Curator of the Harris Guitar Collection at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music.
"This amusing and instructive book distills Parisian flânerie—that blend of urban strolling and conversing that fuses literary, spatial and historical life—with playful images and witty narrative about the notorious flâneurs of yore."
-W. Scott Haine, author of The World of the Paris Café
"A marvelous mix of wit and knowledge, cuisine and curiosity, insight and appetite! Bravo and onward to the cafe!"
-Susan Griffin, author of The Book of the Courtesans
"The Balzac of Berkeley has written a fast-paced and witty Paris diary replete with references to the great flâneurs, from Baudelaire and Balzac to yours truly."
-Terrance Gelenter, author of Paris Through Expatriate Eyes
"You don't have to travel far to enjoy the Paris café. Café French will take you there! You'll have a great time right in your own armchair."
-Leonard Pitt, author of Walks Through Lost Paris
"Delicious! A totally charming celebration of Paris café culture. Thoroughly informative and utterly enjoyable."
-Lisa Anselmo, author of My (Part-Time) Paris Life