The always spectacular H.I.P. Lit series hosted a Brooklyn Book Festival Bookend event last week inspired by Paris featuring authors Angie Niles, Courtney Maum, and Julie Orrginer.
H.I.P Lit is run by Erin Harris, Kim Perel, and Brittney Inman Canty. Harris and Perel are literary agents while Inman Canty works for Pushkin Press handling the publisher’s American publicity. The series is held irregularly, but only because each event is a major production. H.I.P. is much more than just a typical reading. The events are fully themed with decor, artwork, and the readers carefully chosen. With Très Brooklyn, H.I.P. promised Paris and H.I.P. delivered Paris.
Held at the Be Electric, a studio and gallery space, the event included French crepes, coffee, and sandwiches from Ange Noir Cafe and Hell Phone Speakeasy. Assorted flavored macarons were served, as well as French wine. Greenlight Bookstore sold books, and though its brewed in Brooklyn rather than Paris, Sixpoint Brewery provided gratis beer.
Courtney Maum’s novel I Am Having So Much Fun Here Without You tells the story of a British artist and his French wife during an affair. Maum lived in Paris for several years after college working as a beer promoter. She eventually met her husband, a Frenchman, and the two still split their time between the United States and France.
Maum describes her time studying abroad in Paris. Her university provided her three weeks of protected dorm like hostel time in which she was expected to set up a French bank account — a requirement to lease an apartment — acquire a cellular phone, find an apartment, lease it. Eventually she ended up living with a drug dealer.
She studied at the Sorbonne, but that was very isolating. Nobody gives a shit, Maum explains. Foreigners are uninteresting to the French. They are all friends with the people they grew up with, and they don’t need new friends she says. She was lonely.
A lot of the advice she got about Paris came from a boyfriend’s ex-girlfriend. He was maybe less of Maum’s boyfriend than she believed at the time. She ended up working at a salad bar.
She moved to Paris the day after 9/11. She stayed five years, which was long enough to find a Frenchman to marry. Maum wrote the first draft of her book more than a decade ago. She says that today, people forget about Freedom fries and all those silly things that came out of the anti-French sentiment of the early 2000s. She chose to make one character French and one character British so she had the opportunity to poke fun at both cultures.
Julie Orringer’s The Invisible Bridge draws on Parisian history. Set in pre-war Paris, the novel is inspired by her grandfather’s time in the city studying architecture.
Orringer didn’t leave the United States until she was older. She was preparing to go to Paris when she talked about the city with her grandfather.
Angie Niles debut book is a crossover lifestyle travel guide. Designed for the hip Brooklyn girl traveling abroad, Niles identifies how to navigate Paris as a local would.
Niles’s first experience with French culture happened at Disney’s Epcot Center where she regularly toured the French Pavilion. She dreamed of seeing the real Paris. She notes several differences between Paris and New York. In Paris, every apartment has a washer, but the showers are extremely small. New York, she says, is still the greatest city on earth. Paris is where people go to be lonely.
In Paris, restaurants tend to stay open for longer periods of time. In New York, a restaurant is super popular for a very short period of time and then it usually fades away. Now though Paris is becoming inundated with too many Starbucks.
Everyone agrees Starbucks is going to ruin Paris.
“You can get pour-overs and I think it needs to stop,” Maum says.