The Measure of Paris
Paris remains one of the most fascinating cities in the world. It provides a measure of excellence in many areas of culture, and it is itself constantly being measured, both by its lovers and by its critics. This book presents a series of studies on the images of Paris presented by writers (mostly Canadian, from John Glassco to Mavis Gallant to Lola Lemire Tostevin), but also in such other areas as social history and personal memoir. The result is a wide-ranging discussion of the city's history in 20th century literature and thought, which will appeal to all those who love Paris, or who have ever walked on its streets.
- Paperback | 356 pages
- 149.86 x 223.52 x 20.32mm | 566.99g
- 01 Jun 2010
- University of Alberta Press
- Alberta, Canada
- b/w photos
Other books in this series
01 Jul 2015
Back cover copy
Stephen Scobie, fl?neur extraordinaire, deftly blends travelogue, memoir, literary criticism, and poetry in The Measure of Paris. He re-presents a "peripatetic speculation" on Paris and those others who have walked and written this "infinite city." Scobie's graceful wanderings into Parisian art, history, architecture, city planning, and fl?nerie prepare readers for his prolonged meditations on fellow Canadian writers such as Sheila Watson, Mavis Gallant, Gail Scott, Lola Lemire Tostevin, John Glassco, and Gerry Shikatani, and other literary visitors such as Gertrude Stein and Djuna Barnes. Scobie leaves us with personal observations, journal entries and lucid poems to mark and measure his own time there. Seldom do pleasures of form and content align so perfectly. Those who enjoy travel, great writing and great writers, and the city of light will love The Measure of Paris.
#4 on the Edmonton Journal "Edmonton Top 10" Bestseller list "Stephen Scobie is a prolific poet and literary critic, the author of 23 books, the founding publisher of Longspoon Press, a retired University of Alberta English professor and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada. In his latest work, Scobie takes the measure of Paris through personal journal entries, poetry, literary theory and criticism as well as through architectural and cultural history. It is the act of moving through the city on foot, however, that ties these disparate approaches together. The Measure of Paris is also autobiography; it is an expression of personal fascination by a lifelong intellectual. When walking Paris with Scobie, the reader is alternatively dazed by a surfeit of the unfamiliar and exhilarated by the thrill of discovery." Doug Horner, Alberta Views "Measure of Paris by Stephen Scobie is a travelogue, memoir, literary criticism and poetic look at Paris... Scobie is the ultimate flaneur and his philosophical meanderings through Paris takes readers to sites of art, architecture and transit. His history of the city planning, and the itineraries of Canadian writers in Paris, makes for interesting reading and a different look at a city that is larger than life. His personal musings were my favourite, along with the insights into Haussman's influence and transformation of Paris through the large-scale construction of the streets and boulevards that make the Paris we know today." September 26, 2010 [http://www.somisguided.com/weblog/book-review-measure-of-paris-by-stephen-s cobie/ "...Scobie weaves together a book that is part straightforward academic criticism, part anecdotal history and part autobiography." Michael Brown, http://www.expressnews.ualberta.ca/en/NewsArticles/2010/08/Authorlooksbackat theEnglishdepartmentsrisetoprominence.aspx #7 on the Edmonton Top 10 Non-Fiction List (Edmonton Journal), Aug 15/10 "As Alain De Botton does in The Art of Travel (2002), Scobie offers a personal, evocative meditation on the meaning of place. For him, the place is Paris, a city that has inspired a multitude of literary responses. This one--which is illustrated with romantic, painterly photographs by Eugene Atget (1857-1927)--is especially notable: with a poet's sensibility and eloquence, the author combines literary criticism, cultural history, poetry, and memoir to create a work that is astonishingly fresh and engaging... Most fascinating is Scobie's evocation of the 'ethos of Paris topography' through an architectural and historical tour of the city's streets; and most elegant and moving is his remembrance of his last visit to Paris, when, grieving over the death of his wife, he revives his love for a city that embraces him. A fine example of travel writing. Highly recommended. Lower-division undergraduates through faculty; general readers." L. Simon, Choice, December 2010 "Scobie's interest has turned to love and part of the intent of The Measure of Paris is to express this love by examining the many ways in which Paris can be "measured": that is, experienced, understood, viewed, appreciated, and fondly collected in memory and art - in short, the way a lover recalls his mistress. Scobie's approach is multidimensional and he appreciates that ultimately Paris is unattainable. To paraphrase the British writer John Berger, Paris is an older woman loved by a young man, and in this case it is Scobie who is the young man. It is also a book about seeing (after all, are not one's feelings about the beloved based on how she appears?) the city through the eyes of past and contemporary writers as well as through the very personal eye/I of Scobie near the end of the book. The book thus is layered, or works like a mosaic with a series of sharp, well-defined but varied tiles, allowing for a complete picture only when the viewer pulls back." Carmelo Militano, Prairie Fire, April 2011 [Full review found at http://ojs.lib.umanitoba.ca/prairie_fire/article/view/137/128] "'We'll always have Paris.' Bogart's immortal farewell in Casablanca could also serve as a fitting conclusion to Stephen Scobie's recent book The Measure of Paris. Here, he explores the iconic city as not only a place but an inexhaustible, mutable idea that shapes and is in turn shaped by those drawn to walk its streets. Paris, Scobie claims, is a city that "never ends.' ... Scobie is clearly a man of keen and dynamic mind. But this book also shows us a man in love-in love with his subject, with literature, and with the personal Parisian experiences he shared with his wife, whose memory and influence are touchingly honoured in the book's later chapters... What emerges clearly from Scobie's book is that Paris is indeed a city of dreams-a locus of memory, inspiration, and creativity that is continually dreamed into fresh myth and meaning by new visitors who are themselves subtly changed forever. As Scobie says, in an echo of Bogart, 'There are many farewells to Paris, and none of them is ever final.'" Amy Reiswig, The Malahat Review, May 2011 [Full review at http://www.malahatreview.ca/issues/174reviews_reiswig.html] "Stephen Scobie is a well known figure in Canadian literary circles and his book The Measure of Paris is clearly from the hand of a poet and critic. In fact, it sometimes breaks into verse. It is the work of a geographical outsider who has come to know the place deeply over the years, and who is generous with his wide reading and shrewd personal observation." George Fetherling, Diplomat and International Canada, Spring 2011 "Bringing all the elements together under one Parisian banner, Scobie shares his enthusiasm and knowledge of this great city by creating a diverse text and organizing it into six parts. Blending historical exploration with memoir, poetry, and assorted 'travel guide bits'..." Linda Alberta, Prarie Books Now "This cover is elegant and understated, as befits the subject matter, yet still rich and eye-catching; indeed, it grabs one immediately, and makes a lasting impression. The tone and content of the photo convey the subject matter perfectly, and the design itself is marked by a well-resolved, elegant integration of type and image. The typeface is strong and appropriate, the subtle graphic element added to the cover enriches it, and the overall composition is beautifully handled." Winner of Book Cover / Jacket Design, 2011 Alberta Book Publishing Awards Jury "Because Scobie knows those literary parts of Paris inside out and generously provides details along the way, he is able to vividly recreate the writers' routes and lives, thus adding his own contribution, indeed, to the literature inspired by the city of his dreams." Christine Lorre-Johnston, Canadian Literature "The book, as the note on the back cover says, is a mixture of history, criticism, poetry, and memoir... This strange mix of materials is beautifully and intelligently executed... Scobie's book revealed to me a set of ideas that have been out there for a long time-the connection between walking and creativity, but more important for me, I learned that the practicing street photographer is an art-making flaneur... Anyone interested in Paris or literature associated with Paris will find The Measure of Paris enjoyable and useful, but for me reading it was the beginning of an ongoing revelation." Larry E. Fink, May 18, 2014 [Full post at http://finkstreetphotography.com/?p=200]
About Stephen Scobie
Stephen Scobie was born in Scotland and has lived in Canada since 1965, teaching at the Universities of Alberta and Victoria. A widely published poet, he won the Governor General's Award in 1980 for McAlmon's Chinese Opera. He has also published extensively in the criticism of Canadian literature. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada. Stephen Scobie lives in Victoria.