Although I’ve lived in Los Angeles since 1961, and I’ve visited Paris many times since 1969, it never occurred to me to compare the two cities. Fortunately author Diane Ratican has. In doing so she has created a wonderful book, Why LA? Pourquoi Paris?: An Artistic Pairing of Two Iconic Cities that highlights the features of both cities with short prose pieces and colorful and whimsical illustrations by Eric Giriat and Nick Lu.
This is a book to treasure on your coffee table and use as a resource when visiting either city. I’ve found out about places in LA that I’ve never visited and must and places in Paris that I can’t wait to return to. The information in this book is invaluable.
Ms. Ratican has divided her book into seven sections having to do with cityscapes and landmarks, culture, fashion and style, sports and leisure, art and culture, cuisine and dining, and how people get around in each city. For example, in her section called Cityscapes and Landscapes she pairs the LA City Hall constructed in 1928 and the Hotel de Ville in Paris developed in 1882. Another wonderful pairing in the section Culture Celebre is LA’s Marilyn Monroe born in 1926 and Brigitte Bardot born in Paris in 1934. Eric Giriat has created priceless illustrations of the two blondes. She also pairs LA’s Huntington Library created in 1919 and the Jardin du Luxenberg built in Paris in 1612.
I was amazed at the age differences of much of the subject matter depicted in this book – it is telling how new LA is compared to Paris. However, there are a few exceptions; our Oscar award was born in 1929 while the French Cesar was created in 1976. The Beverly Hills Hotel opened in 1912 and The Hotel Plaza Athenee in Paris just one year earlier in 1911. Another exception beautifully illustrated by Nick Lu: the LA Public Library was opened in 1926, and the Bibliotheque Nationale de France – Bibliotheque F. Mitterrand – opened in 1998.
But Paris wins hands down for being the oldest of the two cities. Olvera Street’s La Placita Church is the oldest site in LA. That it appeared on the scene in 1822 can’t compete with the Ile de la Cite, representing the beginning of Paris in 52 B.C.
There is another aspect to this book that appeals to my literary side – Ratican has interspersed appropriate quotes by authors, celebrities, and historical figures throughout. Alongside Nick Lu’s illustrations for billboards in LA and kiosks in Paris, Samuel Johnson says: “Promise, large promise, is the soul of an advertisement.” Lu’s illustrations for two famous shopping streets – Rodeo Drive and Rue Saint-Honore – are flanked by a quote from Johann Wolgang Von Goethe: “We are shaped and fashioned by what we love.” Another quote highlighting Eric Giriat’s illustrations of women shopping in LA and Paris really made me laugh out loud: “Everything in your closet should have an expiration date,” from Andy Warhol.
Hopefully these examples will whet your appetite to read and savor this book. Raticon’s well-chosen quotes blend perfectly with the LA and Paris prose pieces and pairings. I promise you, you won’t be disappointed. In fact, I predict you’ll be amazed and fascinated throughout.
Why LA?/Pourquoi Paris?: An Artistic Pairing of Two Iconic Cities is a must read and a perfect holiday gift.
About the author and illustrators:
Diane Ratican received her bachelor of arts degree in history and sociology from the University of California Berkeley, and then earned her master of arts degree in sociology and education from UCLA. She started her career educated gifting children, and the moved on to become a risk-taking entrepreneur. This background uniquely prepared her to engage in this latest endeavor, as writer, conjuror of images, and artistic director. Her vision of art telling a story comes from her innate creativity and her talent as a collector and curator of art. To her, educating is communicating, and that is what she thrives for in Why LA? Pourquoi Paris? Sharing her enchantment with, and knowledge of, both Los Angeles and Paris has become a complex project with all the depth and nuances of a richly textured tapestry. Her drive is what has navigated her through this process.
Nick Lu is a graduate of Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California, with a degree in illustration. Nick is currently living in Los Angeles and working as an illustrator. Nick spends most of his time dreaming up interesting, eclectic things for his clients ; notable clients include the New Yorker, Wired, Boston Globe, PlanSponsor, Bloomberg View, Hohe Luft Magazine, Playboy Jazz, Poketo, Riney Advertising, and Macmillan Children’s Publishing.
Eric Giriat: Beginning with serial illustrations for the French edition of ELLE Magazine in 1996, Eric Giriat has since flooded the magazine, advertising, and book publishing industries in many fields internationally, from fashion to economics, politics, psychology, children’s books, interior design, the luxury industry, culture, and portraits. He also works with fashion and product design, collaborating with joop !, Dona Fusion, Guerlain, Hennessy, and la Grande Epicerie de Paris.
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