A Book Review of WHY LA? POURQUOI PARIS?

Special Note:  When I first wrote my review of WHY LA? POURQUOI PARIS?, the terrifying events had yet to unfold in Paris and existed only in the minds of the terrorists.  And then, within twenty four hours of sharing my feedback with the author and illustrators, the attack was all over the news. To that end, it makes knowing these individuals, even if only through the correspondences via email, and hearing their voices over a taped interview, all the more meaningful and relevant.  What happened in Paris affected them all, and it stands to reason, one of the illustrators, Eric Giriat, would create a couple of outstanding images on the book’s Facebook page. The link follows the review.

Recently, I received a copy of a very distinctive piece of art work, a book titled WHY LA? POURQUOI PARIS?, An Artistic Pairing of Two Iconic Cities, by Diane Ratican, Illustrated by Nick Lu and Eric Giriat, in exchange for a review.  As I began reading the text, I was immediately drawn in by the voice of the author, Diane Ratican.  Her choice of words as she describes her love for these two distinctive, yet similar cities, is clear, friendly, and factual.  She is filled with an abundance of knowledge, having spent years living in each location.  I loved how she said, “However, like a true Parisian woman who believes she can have the best of both worlds, Los Angeles is my husband, and Paris is my lover.” 

Now this a wise woman.  I was eager to read more, and to see how she balanced her love for each place.

Diane organized the book into seven chapters, and each one begins with a few pages of information about the chosen topics which highlight each city’s common and unique aspects.   I was astounded at the detailed wealth of knowledge she is able to share, and it was apparent to me, she has spent many years immersing herself into the very essence of each location.  She discusses the gorgeous cityscapes, landmarks, areas of entertainment, the flair for individualistic fashion, the love of sports/leisure, the outstanding aspects of arts and culture, and the exquisite as well as ordinary dining experiences.  I loved how, while focusing not only on present day, she also included the past and historical points of interest and detail that gave these cities their own sense of place in world history. The last chapter, called “Cities In Motion,” she discusses the explosive growth and change experienced by each, not only from the perspective of the population, but in relation to transportation. 

I was not only hooked by her descriptions and interesting facts, I became mesmerized by the talent of the two artists who worked in collaboration with her to provide lively and engaging illustrations.  The artistic renderings of Nick Lu, and Eric Giriat, each with their own unique footprint in the art world, enhanced her storytelling by providing many colorful visuals to study and admire.  As I perused the accompanying sketches provided throughout the book, this colorful artwork along with the descriptions simply illuminated my overall experience.  Also included are quotes by famous individuals and these too, highlight the imagery.   All of it together is a cohesive and beautiful work which provides the reader with a clear sense of what life “there” might be like, should they ever have the opportunity to visit.

In closing I will say this.  Now, I want to go and visit LA.  I want to go and visit Paris.  And, if I ever do so, this book will be the perfect travel companion.  I will know exactly what places to see, what to do, and best of all?  I’m sure I would fall in love with both cities too.

INTERVIEW

Hi, Donna, thank you.  I want to compliment you for your beautiful words, and what you said meant a lot to me.

  1. Diane – It is so clear, your love of LA and Paris, and this art work proves that.  How long did you think about this idea before you decided to bring it into the world?

Yes, yes, the artwork proves that, and I really didn’t think too long about the idea.  It just kind of came to me, I don’t know, two and a half years ago, it’ll be three years this March or April when I got the idea about how to tell my story, and I decided to tell it through art, of the going back and forth between Paris and LA, and what I loved about both, and how important they were to me.  That’s how I decided I wanted to do it, in pairs.  I started seeing them that way a long time ago, but, as far as expressing that as a work of art, and as a work of meaningfulness to me.  And then, I started work on the project,

  1. Diane – Your wealth of knowledge about the cities is vast , and given that, are you still learning new things about LA?  About Paris?

All the time.  Every day, something else happens, even this last trip to Paris which, I just got back to the day after the event on January 7th and having said that, one of the things I wanted to do, because I hadn’t seen it, was to go see the new Frank Gehry museum, actually it’s the Louis Vuitton exhibition hall, that was designed by Frank Gehry.  I call it a Frank Gehry museum, as an honor to him, and it is just phenomenal.  It’s brand new and it fits so beautifully into the park and into Paris and it’s timelessness.  It’s just an example of the timelessness of the city.  And I also got a chance to see the new Picasso museum, and the Marais that took about three years to renovate, and they did a magnificent job of making the structure work with  Picasso’s artwork.  It was just a fantastic experience and then, the first day of shopping started.

In Paris, I think I mentioned it in the book too, the Government sets the shopping sales period, and it’s the second Wednesday in January,  and the second Wednesday in July.   Very different from here, and there we are, and it’s massive shopping, people come from all over the world, and we find out about what happened at the magazine, and the city pretty much came to a standstill.  I was scheduled to leave, and did depart on Thursday morning, and I’m back in LA now, but I’m still really, really shaken.  So, yes, there’s something new happening all the time, and in LA, it’s kind of the same things.

I can’t think right now, of what brand new thing has come into my life here, since I’ve been back really.  It’s just really thinking about the differences between the two cities, and wondering how it would be here,  how we would have reacted if something like that happened, because what happened there, happened on so many levels.  The art level which is sacrosanct there,  and of course, the law level which was the police and then the level of anti-semitism, or Jewishness and the fact that people just find a hard time in getting along.  Then you have that demonstration January 11th in Paris that showed what that city is really all about, and how they can make anything bad seem good, and anything ugly seem beautiful.  It’s really, really quite amazing.  Yes, there is always something new to learn about each.

And then, there was the Golden Globes last night, and very little was said about what had happened in Paris, and I thought, “well that’s Hollywood, very into their own thing.”  And yet, cinema is one of those things that holds those two cities together, and they have so much in common with.  Also in the month of January, it’s huge with the new designers , the new collections are coming in the stores.  The designers are getting ready for their new collections, and I know that will all continue to go on, in spite of everything that’s happening, because nothing will never, ever stop that.

But.  Right now I may be home, but my heart is there.

  1. Diane – We love our hometowns, but, no place is perfect.  If you could change one thing about LA, what would it be?  Same for Paris, anything you can think of you’d change?

LA?  I wish we could improve our transportation system.  If there IS something to dislike, while I love to drive, and I love to drive when there is no traffic, and so does everyone else in the world,  and it doesn’t take long to get anywhere, I hate that you have to get in your car and go everywhere.   I mean, I’m sorry.  What I love about Paris is, you don’t.  You can have this life and it’s very simple, and it’s beautiful and it’s wonderful and everywhere you go and every kind of transportation you take, (you even have Uber there, and it’s really easy to do Uber) it makes it really, really easy.  I know how we could make transportation better, because I moved out here a long time ago from Chicago and they took out all the transportation systems we had.  I used to say when I went to Disneyland, well why can’t we put monorails down the freeways?  And of course, it could have been done, but, it never was, and, I don’t know, we have this glorious car culture here.  And, I guess that will always…, be.

Paris?  Wow.  Probably not.   And, I really mean that.  Whatever does change there, only makes it better.  And the people there take such care with their city.   They treasure it.  They value it.  It’s really quite incredible.

  1. Diane – How did you meet up with the illustrators?  Nick Lu?  Eric Giriat?

Nick I met through a very, very dear friend almost a year after I conceived and began working on the book.  He became clear after interviewing many many artists, and seeing examples of their work, that he was the right person.

And, for Eric Giriat in Paris, I worked with an agent who handled illustrators there, who introduced me to Eric, and he thought the project was brilliant.  He fell in love with the idea, and thought that it was time to start a new love story between LA and Paris, and that the old one,  the one between New York and Paris, that it was time for something different.  That’s how that happened.

What’ so amazing about the book though is that both artists were able to capture the Paris that I did, and how I really felt, and it’s like they took my heart, my soul,  my brain and put it through their artwork.  And that’s very, very hard to do.   And everything turned out exactly the way the three of us wanted it to, it was a brilliant…, I call it a team approach, but it was a team that made a oneness of the book and the art, and the whole concept.

  1. Diane – What’s next for you now that WHY LA? POURQUOI PARIS is out?

That’s a really good question.  Right now, it’s to enjoy the fact that it is, to enjoy all the book signings, and the people we meet along the way.  They find it very very engaging and the questions they ask are provocative and interesting.  I’m glad we did something very unique and very different, that will stand the test of time.  I’m sure down the road there will be other, I don’t want to say books like it, (i.e. no comparing with other cities I don’t think), but maybe more about both, maybe broken down more specifically because  there were originally one hundred and sixty  pairs, and the book only has eighty-three, or eighty five.   So, that may be in the future.  But, right now, it’s just to, hope that as many people enjoy the book as is possible, and we enjoy it with them.

I just want to say the illustrations were very beautiful, very provocative, and meaningful and that’s what illustration’s all about, to show the humanness of both cities, and  Nick and Eric did a fabulous job.

  1. Nick Lu – what projects are you currently working on?

I’m currently working on a book project for Chronicle Books.  It’s a picture book about cars for kids.  They had this idea of a puzzle book of cars.  No story, just pictures of different cars from fire trucks to police cars to even dump trucks.   There are vintage car race cars.  These cars are puzzles so they  kind of fit into each other.  It’s a really cute project.   I’m hoping to work on a more personal project after this one, since I’ve been so busy the past two years.

  1. Nick  – how much time is spent on each illustration?

Good question because each one is different and each one is treated differently.  I would say about two weeks.   I kind of give it an average of about two weeks for each pair, just so we can keep the whole thing on schedule.  From coming up with the idea to the sketches, then to illustration, it’s about two weeks for each pair.  Some are quicker, maybe a week, but on average, it’s two.

  1. Nick – Where/how do you do your work?  Do you need music, caffeine, quiet/solitude?  I.e. Tell us about your process

I work from home, in my home office.  Yes, I am addicted to coffee/caffeine.  I always have music on, I need noise to work.  Especially for this project.  Depends on which pair, I always the music that fits the mood of the pair, for different illustrations.  Of course, for the French ones, I have French music on, sometimes jazz, it definitely helps.

  1. Nick – Who is your biggest inspiration?

I kind of go through phases.  Of course, I have my heroes, Picasso, Matisse, Renault, and right now I’m really into Matisse.

  1. Eric  – what projects are you currently working on?

I work mostly as an illustrator for press magazines, and also for creating Magazine and book covers.

  1. Eric – how much time is spent on each illustration?

It depends, it can be very fast like 1 hour , or very long like 2 days or more.  I could say mostly it’s one day, finding the idea and realizing the picture.

  1. EricWhere/how do you do your work?  Do you need music, caffeine, quiet/solitude?  I.e. Tell us about your process 

I need to feel good at my homes and workshops in Paris and Berlin, with a good coffee, good music, nice lights, nice stuff and furniture around and a beautiful view from my windows (in Paris & Berlin).  Better alone, and quiet also.

  1. EricWho is your biggest inspiration?

I love to observe the life around me, and of course I’m also inspired from painters like Rothko, Grosz, Klee, Marlene Dumas, Richter, Baselitz …etc.  Illustrators like Tomi Ungerer, Roland topor, Saul Steinberg …, the Bauhaus school, and architecture.

Please visit WHY LA? PORQUOIS PARIS? Facebook page for more information on the author and illustrators of this unique and wonderful book.  In addition, you may click on the FB photo section and see some of the amazing illustrations done by Eric Giriat in relation to the Paris attack on January 7th.

https://www.facebook.com/whylapourquoiparis?ref=tn_tnmn

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