Scenes from Paris

The story of Paris & its journey into Pickett’s dream

Backstory of Paris

“If Paris didn’t exist in the world, it would have to be invented. Something hangs in the burnished air that presumes its preeminence, as if to suggest that nothing on earth could have stopped this incarnation. In an otherwise hopelessly random world, there was nothing random about Paris—as sightseers’ eyes from Togo to Thailand bathed in its transcendent splendor.

            Walking the streets in the early morning, or the freshly watered gardens at dusk, I always had the sense that Paris kept track of its every admiring subject. Wrapped in itinerant solitude, somehow I always felt at home. Protected by this boldly extroverted world, I was free to be alone.” 

Passage from my first novel, For Theirs is the Kingdom

 Though fleetingly present, Paris plays a significant role in Pickett’s Dream, probably because Paris plays a significant role in my life. Though I am sitting on the Left Bank as I write, the above reflection—which is actually lifted from my first novel, For Theirs is the Kingdom—is based on my experiences as a college student, when for several months I was literally overwhelmed by its beauty. The novel begins and ends in Paris for the narrator of Pickett’s Dream, on his journey between his own failed dream and the one that bears the name of the novel.

One of the risks of reflecting on Paris is the risk of rendering clichés. Perhaps because what makes Paris great is what makes it indescribable. What I hoped to do by the narrator’s descriptions was to express his humility, his sensitivity, his capacity to dream.

Streets of Paris
Streets of Paris

Rather than peering through a camera lens at icons like the Eiffel Tower, I sought to portray the organic grace of the city’s luminescence. Even the celebrated Arc de triomphe—a memorable icon if there is one—can be perceived as less a Napoleonic conquest than a victory for human freedom. And smitten as Brooke is by its lavish garden fountains and “posh perfumeries,” he is inexorably drawn to its meandering streets, where no one knows his name.

Perhaps it is here that I had my first taste of the paradox of beauty. It was not in the grandeur of its limestone buildings, nor its courtyards behind iron gates, but in the air one breathes as a solitary soul that is part of a greater whole. In A Moveable Feast, Hemingway said, “There is never any ending to Paris and the memory of each person who has lived in it differs from that of any other. We always returned to it no matter who we were or how it was changed…”

The paradox of Paris intimates no matter how different we are from one another, together we are drawn to a singular place where life is never-ending. A paradox in which, in the face of monuments as opaque as iron and stone, there is borne a luminescence that conspires to create a consummate “City of Light.” A paradox that suggests Einstein was right—time and space are illusions—and in our vast, ever-changing, evolutionary sweep, there is a light that lives forever.   

“Still, one’s vision of Paris was only as great as the eyes that came to perceive it. Those who clung to American chums were lost before they had started; while those who were seized by her wandering streets knew they were only beginning. If past disappointments were brought to life by this consummate city of lights, so were the long-forgotten dreams one realized would never die.”

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