Luc Sante’s ‘The Other Paris’

La-la-ca-1020-luc-sante-013-jpg-20151021David L. Ulin at the LA Times:

“Paris,” Walter Benjamin once wrote, “is a counterpoint in the social order to what Vesuvius is in the natural order: a menacing, hazardous massif, an ever-active hotbed of revolution. But just as the slopes of Vesuvius, thanks to the layers of lava that cover them, have been transformed into paradisal orchards, so the lava of revolutions provides uniquely fertile ground for the blossoming of art, festivity, fashion.”

Such a statement reverberates through Luc Sante's “The Other Paris” like a thesis statement, an emblem of the city's soul. Paris, Sante wants us to understand, is both like and unlike other cities: an expression of class, of history, but also improvisational, serendipitous. “The city,” he insists, “— compact and curled within itself, a labyrinth — had to be played like a game.”

This is an idea — I'll admit it — that I love, not just in regard to Paris but also to the very essence of urban life. What are cities, after all, but what we make of them, the paths we carve through their maze of streets and neighborhoods, the individual existences we construct in relation to their collective ones?

more here.