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A Waiter in Paris: Adventures in the Dark Heart of the City

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by Edward Chisholm
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Writing nearly a century after George Orwell penned Down and Out in Paris and London, English-born Edward Chisholm is here to let us know that little has changed for those waiting tables and working in kitchens in the City of Light.

Just as significantly, he writes, "yes, the setting is Parisian, the language is French, but these stories are much more universal; they're being played out right now in London, New York, Berlin, Madrid, Rome and beyond."

Chisholm's account is a hat-tip not only to Orwell, but to Ludwig Bemelmans, Nicholas Freeling, Anthony Bourdain, and even David Lebowitz. He values his fellow humans even as he is baffled by the way they treat each other. His affection for the city in which he works is clear, as is his sense being adrift in another culture.

If that seems grim, Chisholm's skills with dialogue, his deft characterization of co-workers, managers, diners, and neighbors give his account an appealing energy. He invests his stories with a tension between just barely getting away with something and feeling entitled to get away with it.

An eminently browsable, gritty, and human picaresque.


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