Highlights from Book Tour USA 2011

A mafia don? No! The author, seen in deep disguise, wearing a tie. The poster in the window shows the cover of Quiet Corners of Rome.

It’s a rare honor for a writer and photographer to have two books come out in a single month. In April both “Quiet Corners of Rome” and “Paris, Paris: Journey into the City of Light” hit bookshelves and Ether-stores.

So Alison and I flew west, and began our voyage of celebration and discovery — reacquainting ourselves with America after a long absence — in La Grande Pomme. What’s that? Forbidden fruit? No: the Big Apple. As I joked to one radio interviewer, New York and Paris are “Big Apple and oranges,” and since I like both varieties of fruit, I preferred not to compare, but rather to taste the life of each as it comes, prepackaged in a colorful skin.


The display at the historic Rizzoli bookstore included Quiet Corners of Rome, Paris, Paris, and our Terroir Guides to Rome, Burgundy, and The Italian Riviera.

Luckily, the Golden State and Golden Gate have not yet been compared to fruit, so the fusion metaphor stopped once we’d done our entertaining book event at Rizzoli’s elegant main store in downtown Manhattan, and flown even further west… to my home town.

If New York was extravagantly exciting and beautiful to behold in its tender springtime hues, San Francisco and the Bay Area were ravishing. Reportedly when it rains it pours in California, and this past winter and early spring were generous with their pourings of that particular cliche.


The Sun Also Rises — over Yerba Buena Island, not just over l’Ile St-Louis (where some of Hemingway’s novel takes place, not to mention chapters of Paris, Paris).

The Golden State was cloaked in green, scented and colored by a zillion blossoms, and made pungent by bay laurel and eucalyptus — some specimens the size of redwoods. (Everything has grown since I was a young man: all the trees are gigantic.)

Alison and I were simply bowled over by the gorgeousness, the fresh, clean air, the friendliness of the locals, and the deliciousness of the food, wine and coffee. Perfectionists say that Peet’s is no longer as good as it was, but it was still pretty darn good, and of course for several weeks I went around declaring “for Peet’s sake,” and wishing we had some in the land of Cafe’ Richard (Paris’s cafes are an endearing institution, and the coffee in 95 percent of them is awful).

But I promised not to compare. And I’ll be writing about the subject of food, wine and high living in California in some detail in my monthly post for Gadling.com. So I will limit myself to saying, with thanks and humility, that the book tour was a wonderful experience. The events were well attended, and the audiences seemed appreciative. They certainly liked the photos. Alison showed many — of Rome and Paris — at Book Passage in Corte Madera, and at the Mechanics’ Institute Library in downtown San Francisco.


Elaine Petrocelli, the mind and wit behind Book Passage (aided by her husband, Bill Petrocelli), talking to yours truly, also shown at the podium, with Alison’s photo of the Ile St-Louis on the screen behind me…

Elaine laid on the song and dance: a talented professional accordionist came to the event at Book Passage to put the audience in the mood

All roads lead from Paris, Paris to Quiet Corners of Rome, and Rome’s celebrated Appian Way, shown here in another of Alison’s fine photos

Book Passage, one of America’s greatest and most active independent bookstores, needs no introduction. But if you don’t know the MIL library — I grew up in SF and Berkeley and had never heard of it — you’re in luck: a great discovery awaits you. The institution has been around for about 150 years, and its early 1900s HQ on Post Street is magnificent, with one of the most striking spiral staircases in the country. Not to mention the state’s longest-established chess clubs. Apparently at least one grand master of chess had a stroke or heart attack or otherwise succumbed to the wonders of the place, and the incident is burned into the minds of the MIL’s members. Check mate!




We also did events at Readers’ Books in Sonoma, and Mrs. Dalloway’s in Berkeley. They will be the subject of a future blog post.

The photos of our tour and accompanying tourism speak volumes. Since I’ve written a few too many, and am jet lagged beyond belief, I will let them do the talking. Thank you, New Yorkers and San Franciscans (and Bay Areans and Sonomans, if such things may be said to exist). We can’t wait to return for another round!

Don’t forget: we still have two spring book events to do… in Paris. On June 7th from 5-7pm we’ll be at The Village Voice Bookshop, and on June 8th I’ll be giving a lecture about the “Nostalgia Business” and Paris, for Adrian Leeds’ group of Paris-o-philes. Please come to both, and bring a legion friends.


San Francisco’s other great bridge, the Bay Bridge. Talk about installation art…

A view from the bridge…

The City of San Francisco provides free Stair-Masters to all

For many more photos, visit my Facebook page



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