Paris. The name alone carries heft. It's where an artist dreams of legitimacy, and it has existed as such in the popular imagination for a long time — perhaps too long. Paris couldn't possibly sustain itself as it did for writers such as Henry Miller, a paradise where the poor appeared free of want, simply because they lived in the midst of inspiration. But the community would soon plateau and the dream would become muddied and predictable, sought after by all.
When Rosecrans Baldwin decamped for Paris with his wife, it wasn't only the dream that he was seeking; as an advertising copywriter, there was a middle-class reality to grapple with. This neurotic young writer flirted with two worlds, trying to reconcile fact from fiction, the pedestal from the pedestrian. Paris I Love You But You're Bringing Me Down is about romance, which means it's also about madness, frustration, comedy, tragedy, and moments of absolute stillness — spaces between scenes that natives know all too well.
By no means does the book rehash the hardy struggles of the Lost Generation. You won't read about Baldwin's exploits in the bread line, but rather things such as his interviewing Sean Connery for a Louis Vuitton commercial, his education on the French obsession for the proper tan and reheated food, and his enduring office banter that mixed racist humor with a hierarchical respect of oral sex.
We spoke recently with Baldwin, who visits to the Bay Area on Tuesday, June 12, at Corte Madera's Book Passage, and Wednesday, June 13, at Books Inc. in Palo Alto.