Janice MacLeod, who rocketed up the New York Times Bestseller list with Paris Letters, has a new book out. A part deux, if you will. “If Paris Letters is about BECOMING an artist in Paris,” she writes on her website, “A Paris Year is about BEING an artist in Paris.”
It’s an unusual book, layed out to look like a scrapbooked personal diary. MacLeod’s watercolors are luscious and precise, and add a more personal touch than her photographs, which perhaps would look less average if this weren’t the age of Instagram. I couldn’t help but wish I could see MacLeod’s real journal instead of pages that were computer-designed with ersatz moisture rings from beverages and “tape” holding down snapshots. But if you can get past the odd mix of the quaint and the commercial, you will feel like you’re enjoying a leisurely dinner with an expat friend. The joys of Paris are highlighted here—farmers markets, long walks, museums and cafes. It’s short of depth but strong on color and beauty. (MacLeod’s entries rarely stray from the first 8 arrondissements, but she’s got a great eye.)
The occasional batch of color swatches, illustrating a palette or particular light of the city, feel unique and insightful. “Is is the creamy neutral palette of the buildings and gray skies that make red pop?” she asks. It is those details that remind you that artists, and aesthetes, experience Paris differently, and it is a delight to hear them describe it.