Wednesday, May 10, 2006

I should have moved to Estonia instead...

That's what I tell myself every time I see yet another book by an American or other anglophone about how hilarious it to live in France surrounded by those outrageously wacky French people!

By contrast, I doubt that there is even one single book about how humorous it is for an American to live in Estonia surrounded by those lovably quirky Estonians! Estonia even has a funny-sounding name. Say it a few times. Estonia. I could be writing that book! If only I hadn't followed every other pathetically unoriginal American on the planet to France, the country that comes up first when you google "travel -- been there, done that."

Still, even though it would be more original, I'm not sure that "Letters from a Broad" would be funnier if these missives were coming from Estonia instead of France. I can just picture myself spending the whole morning giggling while crafting the perfect line that is a subtle riff on some typical stereotype about Estonians. And then I picture my American audience reading it and going "Wha...? I don't get it..."

So I might as well have the serenity to accept the fact that my topic of choice has been done to death.

On the other hand, instead of thinking of "anglophone in France" humor as a tiny niche that's filled to overflowing, it wouldn't be unreasonable to see it as a vast and popular genre that has plenty of room for a range of obscure sub-niches. There's the funny gay guy, the Jewish family-man writing for the New Yorker, various wacky Brits...

So why not have the French lampooned by a light-hearted exmormon computer-programmer mom? That's got to be an obscure enough niche that not too many people will be fighting me for it.

I keep thinking it would be funny to repackage the highlights of this blog in book form and sell it as Letters from a Broad: a Year of Correspondence from France to Utah Valley (since the whole thing started as a column in the Utah Valley Monitor). But even though I already have a fabulous title worked out and everything, somehow I'm not sure it will fly.

Part of the problem is that deep down I think that Americans writing about living in France are pretentious. Yet for some reason I don't think that I am pretentious. (Stop guffawing out there, you know I can hear you!)

The other part of the problem is that when I spent a weekend in Paris recently, I made the mistake of picking up Adam Gopnik's literary anthology Americans in Paris. This book is full of fascinating insights about France from some really, really good writers! Yet I've checked the table of contents a bunch of times, and for some reason I can't seem to find myself listed. Oh well, at least I'm not pretentious. (Hey, I said cut the guffawing!)

What I can't figure out, though, is why there's no corresponding body of literature by French people recounting how funny it is to live in the U.S. That's surely as much of a fountain of entertaining wry observations as the cultural exchange in the other direction, isn't it?

I suggested to my husband that it would be great for him to write a book about his adventures in the US since he's a funny guy who likes to make fun of Americans, plus after it's a best seller he could follow it up with a sequel about all of the cultural mishaps and unexpected twists that result when you bring an American back home with you at the end of your travels.

He agreed that he would have plenty of material, but said that he doesn't have time to write the book because he's too busy doing math.

Never mind, maybe the French aren't funny after all.

I guess I'll have to look into getting myself that ticket to Estonia...

13 comments:

Joseph's Left One said...

Americans aren't funny because we live in the best country in the world. ;-)

-Domokun- said...

I thought Alexis de Tocqueville already did that, but he's not very funny.

Maybe the USA just isn't funny to the French, Jerry Lewis excepted. (Or does he prove my point?)

C.L. Hanson said...

Yeah, he wasn't terribly funny, plus that was an awfully long time ago...

I think modern French people could come up with funny things to say about Americans if they put their minds to it. ;-)

Rebecca said...

Maybe Americans are just so boring the French can't find enough to write about. Or maybe they just hate our "freedom fries."

C.L. Hanson said...

You have no idea!!! They thought the 'freedom fries' were hilarious!!!

From talking to people around the office and other friends, I can tell you the French thought 'freedom fries' were the funniest thing since sliced beer!!! :D

C.L. Hanson said...

Okay, now I've gotten four visits to this page from people in Estonia...

Please, Estonians, leave a comment!!!

Tell me what you think of my fabulous idea to visit your country and write funny stories about all of the hilarious adventures I would have there. :D

Cynthia E. Bagley said...

I hear Estonia is fun.. and rich... or maybe that is somplace else. ;-)

C.L. Hanson said...

Hey Rebecca, your comment reminded me of a funny story, so I had to post it: Freedom Avenue!!! ;-)

Stephen said...

I remember reading "Mormons & Californians" from a French writer circa Brigham Young's era. He suggested wine grapes for California and liked the sermon in the Tabernacle he heard.

I think travel books have been going on a long time, it is just a matter of interest by readers, not a willingness to write them.

C.L. Hanson said...

That sounds like an interesting book.

You're right about the supply/demand question in travel writing -- I'm mostly kidding about this plan. :D

Hi, I'm Holly said...

That's astonishing; I just found out about your blog (saw the post about the Grinch in one of the carnivals) and indeed might yesterday have written something inspired by it, if it weren't for the fact that I decided to have a migraine instead! I am also making my husband find it for me as a direct result of your post. :)

Plus I could hardly be more surprised to get any comments at all because, as you probably noticed, my blog's only days old and I haven't even told my friends about it yet because I'm still trying to figure out if it's going to work out.

As far as unoriginal Americans, I'm even more pathetic than you because I moved to the UK, despite never having had that kind of anglophile streak that leads my countrymen to dream about driving cars painted like a Union Jack when they're off to see the changing of the guards.

People are always telling me I should write about being a USian living in the UK but I don't think I have anything to add to that genre either.

C. L. Hanson said...

Hey Holly!!!

It seems astonishing, but it isn't really. The thing is that you linked to me (temporarily at least) and then clicked through the link, which means your URL shows up on my blog stats. It's like summoning the devil -- most blogging addicts will go have a look and investigate all incoming links to see if they're interesting. ;^)

Hi, I'm Holly said...

I thought that might have been it. :) I must fix the links on my sidebar again so the rest of them show up! But I've been too lazy — I mean, busy — today.