When the publisher of Why LA? Pourquoi Paris?: An Artistic Pairing of Two Iconic Cities contacted me to ask whether I’d like to review the book, I was intrigued. It’s not often those two cities are compared side-by-side and I was very interested to see how the author, Diane Ratican, along with illustrators Eric Giriat and Nick Lu, approached the subject.
Once I held the book in my hands and perused its contents, it became obvious that the author loves Los Angeles as much as I do and had found a unique way to express her admiration. Indeed, it had never occurred to me that the City of Angels and the City of Light could be juxtaposed in such an inventive and illuminating manner.
This is not a guidebook in the traditional sense, nor a critical examination of the complex socio-political realities that define contemporary life in the two cities. Rather, Ratican has written a love letter to the two cities that have played such a central role in her life. As she explains in the book’s introduction, Paris and LA have kept her “…intrigued and captivated for decades. Knowing them has given me the feeling that I am experiencing something greater than the sum of its parts, and I want to share that overwhelming discovery with you.”
The book is divided into seven chapters, including:
- Cityscapes & Landmarks Magnifiques
- Culture Célèbre: Cinema, Entertainment & Glamor
- Fashion, Style & Shopping à la Mode
- Sports & Leisure
- Communicating Ideas: Art & Culture
- Cuisine & Dining
- Cities in Motion
In each section, Ratican offers up her take on a particular facet of life in Los Angeles and Paris. As someone who is knowledgeable about LA’s history, rich cultural life and built environment, I didn’t find that the book offered me much in the way of new insights or previously unknown facts. I didn’t feel the same way about the Paris text, however, which not only presented information I could use on my next trip to that city, but made me want to plan that vacation sooner rather than later.
Despite being a little disappointed that I didn’t learn more from the LA narrative, the book’s bright, playful illustrations by Giriat and Lu, so evocative of place and time, happily made up for that deficiency. I was particularly taken by many of the pictures found in the book’s first chapter, which focuses on cityscapes and landmarks in the two cities. Here you’ll find the Watts Towers paired with the Eiffel Tower, the LA Central Library in downtown LA matched with the Bibliothèque F. Mitterrand, and the Colorado Street Bridge in Pasadena paired with the Pont Neuf.
For those who are as captivated with the illustrations as I am, you can purchase limited edition giclée prints of some of them by visiting the Why LA? Pourquoi Paris? Etsy shop. Each print is signed and numbered by the artist.
Given that many underappreciate Los Angeles, it’s refreshing to read a book that presents the city as on par with Paris, arguably one of the most beautiful and beloved cities in the world. I tip my hat to Ratican, Giriat and Lu for creating a fitting tribute to two iconic cities.
To Purchase the book, visit Amazon
FULL DISCLOSURE: Aside from a free review copy of Why LA? Pourquoi Paris?, I did not receive any compensation for reviewing this book.