Tuesday, November 28, 2006
In clear, simple French (this is the first book I've read in that language without once having to thumb through a dictionary), Laurence Wyle and Jean-François Brière discuss French behavior and institutions in a historical context. Their goal is to give Ugly Americans a deeper understanding of their least favorite Europeans, beyond the lame "surrender monkeys" and Jerry-Lewis-fans stereotypes. Much of the book compares and contrasts American and French behavior and beliefs--our different views of democracy and education and capitalism in particular are emphasised. The comparisons are rewarding and the discussion of the separation of church and state in France vs. the US was very illuminating.
There are also excellent text features, including many cartoons. One night I was reading it at the Liberry and a French exchange student asked me if the book was 'fair' to her people. "Awl ze Americane bookz, zey ate ze Franch peoble," she said. Not this one.