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I'LL NEVER BE FRENCH (no matter what I do): Living in a Small Village in Brittany
Tired of Provence in books, cuisine, and tablecloths? Exhausted from your armchair travels to Paris? Despairing of ever finding a place that speaks to you beyond reason? You are ripe for a journey to Brittany, where author Mark Greenside reluctantly travels, eats of the crêpes, and finds a second life.
When Mark Greenside -- a native New Yorker living in California, doubting (not-as-trusting-as Thomas, downwardly mobile, political lefty, writer, and lifelong skeptic -- is dragged by his girlfriend to a tiny Celtic village in Brittany at the westernmost edge of France, in Finistère, "the end of the world," his life begins to change.
In a playful, headlong style, and with enormous affection for the Bretons, Greenside tells how he makes a life for himself in a country where he doesn't speak the language or know how things are done. Against his personal inclinations and better judgments, he places his trust in the villagers he encounters -- neighbors, workers, acquaintances -- and is consistently won over and surprised as he manages and survives day-to-day trials: from opening a bank account and buying a house to removing a beehive from the chimney -- in other words, learning the cultural ropes, living with neighbors, and making new friends.
I'll Never Be French (no matter what I do) is a beginning and a homecoming for Greenside, as his father's family emigrated from France. It is a memoir about fitting in, not standing out; being part of something larger, not being separate from it; following, not leading. It explores the joys and adventures of living a double life.
Mark Greenside holds B.S. and M.A. degrees from the University of Wisconsin. He has been a civil rights activist, Vietnam War protestor, anti-draft counselor, Vista Volunteer, union leader, and college professor. His stories have appeared in The Sun, The Literary Review, Cimarron Review, The Nebraska Review, Beloit Fiction Journal, The New Laurel Review, Crosscurrents, Five Fingers Review, and The Long Story, as well as other journals and magazines, and he is the author of the short story collection, I Saw a Man Hit His Wife.
He presently lives in Alameda, California, where he continues to teach and be politically active, and Brittany, France, where he still can't do anything without asking for help.
Day by Day in France, (not quite) Mastering the Art of French Living
"I’ll Never Be French is ontological: who am I, and why am I in France? The second book, Day by Day in France, (not quite) Mastering the Art of French Living is more practical: now that I’m here, what do I do, or not do, or not even think about doing, or saying, or asking, or begging. It’s a different kind of journey. The first book was about surviving in an alien land, alone, without language, money, do-it-yourself skills, or cultural knowledge. The second book is about almost succeeding and being accepted in that still alien land, still mostly alone, with not much more language or money, no more do-it-yourself skills, and lots more cultural knowledge. It’s about learning the rules of engagement and how to get what I need, which is not necessarily what I want, and being grateful and thankful, even when--especially when--I fail." - Mark Greenside
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