Le cul entre les deux chaises

An American Spaniard in France or: How I Learned to Make an Ass of Myself in Three Cultures

The French may love to read…


Apparently, the French are big readers which I find a bit surprising. According to some figures, they buy a lot of books, which isn’t the same thing as reading them. (I know I’m a pedant, but without clarity, there can be no accurate communication.) Quoth the Times (without citing a source)

France boasts 2,500 bookstores, and for every neighborhood bookstore that closes, another seems to open. From 2003 to 2011 book sales in France increased by 6.5 percent.

I see people reading in public all the time: in bars and restaurants; on the Métro; on benches; in parks. What I have yet to see is an apartment with a nightstand which is where people generally have books.

My stylish solution

This has mystified me for however long I’ve been in France. (At this point, it’s been more than a while.) I’ve sublet a whole hell of a lot of apartments and not a one has had a place to park a book at night, never mind other important bedside items like a lamp, an alarm and a box of tissues.

And I just don’t get it. Why don’t the French read in bed? I suppose the joke answer is that they’re all too busy having sex, but I’ve never heard any neighbors getting it on, though I do hear their phones ringing, their alarms going off and their dishes being put away.

I’ll quote Jerry Seinfeld here (whose new web series is promising) and say, “What’s. The. Deal. With. That?”

UPDATE: Ha! I’m not alone!


Author: le cul en rows

I'm an American Spaniard, living in France. I like to tell stories.

2 thoughts on “The French may love to read…

  1. Dear friend,
    having sublet my apartment to you, I can testify that your memories are inaccurate (for I don’t doubt your honesty): there was a very convenient space to park books and a lamp behind the bed that you occupied for a while rue de Trion last year …
    take care,

    • Et, voilà! The space you mention, which was a low wall that acted as both headboard and lamp ledge, was very practical for some things, but completely unsuited to many of the basic functions of a nightstand. If I wanted something from the ledge, I’d have to contort my body to reach it; a nightstand is at or just below the level of the bed so that, for instance, one can glance over with one eye half open and see what time it is, or absently grab a kleenex while still half asleep. Maybe what you’re really saying is that foreigners (non-French people) are just wimps.

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