cover image Christmas in Paris 2002

Christmas in Paris 2002

Ronald K. Fried, . . Permanent, $24 (148pp) ISBN 978-1-57962-114-8

Fried's fine second novel (after 2004's My Father's Fighter ) follows a curmudgeonly 49-year-old New Yorker and his wife through the rituals of their annual vacation in Paris. It's December 2002, and "war in Iraq [is] penciled in on the world's calendar for twelve months hence." Joseph Steiner, recently laid off from his TV exec job, can sense "the encroaching smallness" of his life against the backdrop of a Paris remembered. Don't expect much in the way of plot: the novel delivers incidents and tableaus as opposed to a single dramatic sweep. Steiner sees old friends and judges how he measures up; he buys clothes and visits his favorite sites for the umpteenth time. But with wry humor (Steiner describes as "exhilarating" a rainy weekend spent reading Balzac) and character-based insight ("the unlived life is a peculiarly American phenomenon"), Fried keeps the pages turning until, gratifyingly, Steiner comes to see that his fate is "being decided by history in ways he [is] only beginning to understand." The novel finds its center in the confluence of its political moment and Steiner's place in it, tracing the erosion of known worlds. (Nov.)