cover image Paris Out of Hand: A Wayward Guide

Paris Out of Hand: A Wayward Guide

Chronicle Books, Karen Elizabeth Gordon, Karen Elizabeth. Chronicle Books, $22.95 (160pp) ISBN 978-0-8118-0969-6

The conceit behind this playful, charming spoof of a book is as simple and bizarre as a Magritte painting: it is a guide to an imaginary Paris, complete with fake hotel listings, off-the-wall travel advice and restaurant recommendations that aim more at literary than culinary edification. In Gordon's Paris, tourists may stop at the Grand Hotel des Echecs, home to a clientele made up of chess lovers and losers (""echecs"" means both ""chess"" and ""failures"" in French); dine at the Cafe Dada, where one inserts food into an Automat and is fed foreign coins in return; or take in a film at the Cinema l'Ange des Sables, which shows only movies shot in the desert. ""Ici on parle angoisse"" (""Anguish spoken here""), Gordon informs us of one hotel. Admirers of Gordon's previous work, which includes the popular grammar handbook The Transitive Vampire and the novel The Red Shoes and Other Tattered Tales, will not be surprised to find her drawing heavily on the work of such writers as Paul Valery, Guillaume Apollinaire and Raymond Queneau for her wealth of puns, wordplay and double-entendres. This is not a book to read cover to cover, but rather to dip into when the appetite strikes. When the absurdist humor gets too coy or heavy-handed, readers may refresh themselves by studying the surrealist collages and illustrations illuminating every page. Meticulously drawn, finely detailed and brimming with whimsy, they are happily reminiscent of those in Bantock's own Griffin & Sabine books. (Oct.)