Lisa Pasold

Curious Minds: Reading List

Several people at the Curious Minds lectures asked me for a reading list about Inventing Modern Paris. Which is a great idea! But I have some trouble winnowing down my list. I have a few all-time favourite books, and then a wide selection of books on my shelf which contributed to our talks this year. So here is a brief selection. Several of these titles are in French; most exist in English translation. There are innumerable books about the Second Empire and/or The Belle Epoque in general; I leave you to choose a favourite from your local bookshop. Meanwhile here are some special favourites from my own shelf...

Crucial books I have read & reread:

Walter Benjamin, The Arcades Project

Colette, CHERI (or really pretty much anything she wrote, but this novella is a classic of the Belle Epoque)

Eric Hazan, L'invention de Paris

Camille Laurens, La petite danseuse de quatorze ans

Tom Reiss, The Black Count (a life of the amazing military general, Thomas-Alexandre Dumas, father of the famous novelist)

And other related books that I've enjoyed:

Stephen Clarke, Paris Revealed - the Secret Life of a City (easily the most readable, well-researched, actually FUN book about Paris - history, facts, a few personal odds & ends. I also like his bio of Edward VII, "Dirty Bertie, An English King Made in France")

Sarah Bernhardt, Ma double vie (there's also an interesting short novel by Francoise Sagan about Sarah--definitely out there in translation & a fun read)

Victor Hugo, LES MISERABLES (well, yes, it's rather long. but generally worth it.)

Graham Robb, Rimbaud (the book which led me to do a stand-up comic routine about how much i dislike Paul Verlaine. extremely well-researched.)

Eric Vuillard, Tristesse de la Terre (short, grim, poetic - about Buffalo Bill's Wild West show in Paris in the 1880s)

a series of chapbooks about Marie Curie, put out by the Institut Curie, available for purchase in English & French at their tiny museum bookshop 

the letters of George Sand, any collection really -- the ones to Flaubert are great, but really any selection will entertain & inform


Edmond White, THE FLANEUR (also, if you're interested in Proust, White's slim biography is a nice starting point)

Willett Weeks, The Man Who Made Paris Paris (a life of Baron Haussmann) 

Taschen has an excellent collection of historical photographs, just called "Paris, Portrait d'une ville" (the text is in English)

And really if you have any chance of seeing the NADAR exhibition in Paris (on until the beginning of Feb 2019) PLEASE GO! Felix Nadar was initially a cartoonist; his painter brother is the one who first became interested in photography. Between them--and later, with Nadar's son--they made all kinds of innovations in the art of the photograph. Meanwhile, Nadar's wife, Ernestine, attempted to keep the books balanced & the office running smoothly. The expo corrects many assumptions I've been making, based on earlier research, over the years. So for me, this show was a must-see. Go for the celeb portrait sight-seeing (Sarah Bernhardt, of course!) if nothing else. And if you can't go to the expo, if you ever see a book of Nadar photographs, do get it!

Curious Minds: Princess Metternich's duel

Every now and then, somebody does something SO annoying that the best solutiion is to challenge them to a duel. Or so Princess Pauline von Metternich believed. I'll be talking about Metternich, and her amazing fashion sense, on Friday at the Bloor Street Cinema. Meanwhile, enjoy Pauline duelling over floral arrangements:

Curious Minds: Inventing Modern Paris

My Curious Minds series kicked off with a packed house on Friday & I'm thrilled so many people share my enthusiasm for Paris in the 19th century. There are a slew of great books & films that reference this period, and I'll try to fit in as many as possible. But in case you miss something, fellow Friday temporary Parisians, I'll be posting a list of great books, authors, etc right here over the next few weeks, so be sure to check back.

And if you want to join my mailing list, just send me an email "pasoldla" at gmail dot com. Thanks! See you on Friday... 

The Red Wheelbarrow Reopens!

Paris... "The city as a landscape and a room." I've been reading Walter Benjamin for my upcoming discussions on the 19th century. I have my particular well-thumbed copy of Benjamin's The Arcades Project because in 2002, I happened to wander into the wonderful Paris bookshop, The Red Wheelbarrow, as I often did. And the owner, Penelope Fletcher, flung herself out of her chair and said "YOU must buy this book."

Well, when Penelope insists you need a book, you obey her. Because she's right (at least in my experience!) And indeed, this edition of Benjamin's Arcades Project has been an ongoing crucial reference for me in my writings about Paris, about cities in general, and about walking in cities.  

So I am especially thrilled to announce that Penelope has just, this very minute, opened her brand new bookshop, the newly relocated, newly restored, newly risen from the ashes, freshly stocked and ready for readers, writers, flaneurs, and book enthusiasts,facing the Luxembourg Gardens, on rue de Medici. If you want to see photos of the shop in process, and its windows now, check her out on Instagram. But more importantly, walk on over & ask Penelope for some recommendations. I can guarantee that years later, you'll still be savouring the books she finds for you. 

The Red Wheelbarrow
11 rue de Medici, 75006 
Metro: RER B Luxembourg station 
The shop is open every day and the current tentative hours are 10AM-7PM, perhaps later on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. 
You can phone ahead at +33 (0) 1 42 01 81 47


Curious Minds Series - new lectures coming soon!

Last week, I found myself staring at a small notebook page with two very neat "scribbles" by brilliant scientists. Why? Because I was lucky enough to look at a page from the shared notebook of Marie and Pierre Curie. The page is now under radiation-proof glass, because all their notebooks are still glowing in the dark. The visit was very moving, looking at the small neat handwriting, and the carefully-preserved lab and office used by one of my personal heroines, the brilliant Marie Curie. Right now, I'm deep into the research for my new autumn lecture series, "Inventing Modern Paris". This will be six new lectures about my very favourite Parisian period, the 1800s. This is the timeframe when Paris reinvented itself as a Modern City--and set in motion basically all the expectations we now have, for modern cities everywhere. From the arts to the sewage system--really! And right at the end of the 19th-century, there is the amazing Curie! Find out all the details here about my new Paris discussions coming up in October on the Curious Minds website


Poetry Month!

Happy April! 

I'm heading to New Orleans this week for the 2018 New Orleans Poetry Festival - so many wonderful readings, poets, discussions... more info here: This year the festival is dedicated to the memory of the poet & editor Marthe Reed. In an interview with rob mclennan, Reed said: "What’s the writer’s role? I think we all have the same obligation, whether writers or artists or any otherwise: to make our choices conscious and explicit, informed and compassionate." Words to live by, and Marthe definitely did that.  

At an Ivy reading in Paris, I was lucky to cross paths with Carrie Chappell, who invited me to take part in her Verse of April project. Since 2015, Chappell has invited different poets to respond to their favourite poem throughout National Poetry Month. So here is my response to Agha Shahid Ali's magnificent ghazal, Tonight




Winter in Paris can be grey after the holidays. The sparkly lights are coming down, the "galette des rois" for Epiphany has been eaten, and the best thing to do is stay inside. Which got me thinking about the many "hidden" paintings in the Louvre, tucked away on the upper floors, where you're all alone apart from the rare ghostly voices of tourists who got lost up here way back in 1983... Some of my favourite works are stuck up there, singing away to themselves. Including this 17th-century snake painting by the marvellously-named Otto Marseus van Schreick. I like to think of the garden waiting out there in the rain, dreaming its strange dreams & working towards spring. If you need me, I'll be inside, wrapped up in a blanket, reading a book...

Curious Minds Paris Lectures - the names & places!

Hello Monday morning people! As requested, here is a list of the people & places I mention during my Hotdocs' Curious Minds series, "Learning From Paris"... in case you want to look up more information or visit the specific locations when you're next in Paris! I'll be updating this list as we go through the series. At the very end of this post, you'll find a reading list of books I love.

Sept 18: The Bones of Paris - Anne of Kiev, queen of France, stood at her palace window in 1152. She was married to King Henri I. We also discussed the Romans & the Parisii, Saint-Denis, Sainte-Genevieve, and Maurice de Sully, Bishop of Paris--the man who "dreamed" of Notre Dame. 

Sept 25: The Food of Paris - We looked at work from photographer Willy Ronis. Louis VI ("King Louis the Fat") was the instigator who moved the market to its location in Les Halles, in 1136. Victor Baltard was the architect of the great 19th-century buildings for Les Halles. I mentioned a few restaurants, including Chartier (a Belle Epoque "bouillon" restaurant), the gorgeous high-end Train Bleu, opened in 1901, located inside the Gare de Lyon, and also the Brasserie Lipp on the Left Bank. One of my favourite open air food markets in Paris is on Thurs & Sun mornings at metro Bastille & stretches up the boulevard Richard-Lenoir. And this is a still-life by painter Anne Vallayer-Coster:

Oct 2: The Words of Paris - We talked about the 1671 literary salon of Mme de Lafayette, who lived on the rue de Vaugirard facing the entrance to the Jardins de Luxembourg. Her salon included La Fontaine (of the Fables), La Rochefoucauld, and Mme de Sevigne (sometimes spelled "Sevigny".) Then we moved to the Cafe Procope, opened in the 1680s. We visited the coffeehouse in 1849, and eavesdropped on literary lions George Sand, Victor Hugo, Honore de Balzac, Alexandre Dumas, and Gustave Flaubert. We also popped by the Hugo museum, in Place des Vosges (where you can visit George Sand's cigarette lighter, in the souvenir table Hugo had made.) And we discussed the original Shakespeare & Company Bookshop, opened by Sylvia Beach. We discussed the year 1922 - when Beach published James Joyce's Ulysses. 1922 is also the year when Ernest Hemingway had to rewrite his entire short story collection. We talked about literary Americans Janet Flanner (writer for the New Yorker), Gertrude Stein & her partner Alice B. Toklas, and F. Scott Fitzgerald - all friends of Beach. We also talked about literary France - the Maison des Amis du Livre, run by Adrienne Monnier just across rue de l'Odeon from Beach's bookshop. 

Oct 16: The Art of Paris - We talked about 7 works of art: "Le dessert de gauffres" c.1630 by Lubin Baugin (in the Louvre); "Self-portrait" 1789 by Elizabeth Vigee-Lebrun (in the Louvre); "The Raft of the Medusa" 1818 by Theodore Gericault (in the Louvre); "Gare Saint-Lazare" 1877 by Claude Monet (in the Orsay); "La Danse au Moulin-Rouge" 1895 by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (in the Orsay); "Guernica" 1937 by Pablo Picasso (in Madrid, though it was painted in Picasso's studio in Paris, on the rue des Grands Augustins; we saw several photographs taken by Dora Maar); and "Stravinsky Fountain" 1983 by Niki de Saint-Phalle & Jean Tinguely (located beside the Pompidou.) We also mentioned two paintings by Gustave Caillebotte (Rainy Day in Paris & The Floor-Planers - the latter is in the Orsay, right beside the Monet train station.) And we discussed several people painted by Toulouse-Lautrec, including Raphael Padilla, Jane Avril, and La Goulue. 

Oct 23: The War of Paris - We focused on two different periods, beginning in the 19th Century with a series of revolts in Paris...1830, 1848, and finally the 1870 Siege of Paris (where the city was surrounded by the Prussians & citizens were reduced to eating rats!) We took a look at Delacroix's famous painting, LIBERTY LEADING THE PEOPLE. Some of the important figures of the era include Louise Michel, the "Red She-Wolf" of Montmartre, and the writer George Sand. The Paris Commune of 1871 didn't last long, but its societal impact lingered into the 20th century. And it's fascinating to look at the burst of science, art, and inspiration which followed: after the bloodthirsty Commune, Paris glowed with life, World Fairs, and of course, the magnificent paintings of the Impressionists! In the second half of our talk, we discussed the 1960s. First, we looked at the Algerian war and the terrible repression of innocent Paris demonstrators, Oct 17, 1961. Police murdered, beat, and drowned protestors, resulting in at least 200 deaths. About 11,000 people were arrested in Paris that day, just for demonstrating. Writer Simone de Beauvoir was one of the few to voice her horror at the police action. The Paris Chief of Police at the time was Maurice Papon, who later stood trial for his collaboration in the Holocaust. We mentioned novels by Albert Camus, a Frenchman born in Algeria, & by Kamel Daoud, an Algerian journalist who writes in French. And then we looked at the famous student riots of May, 1968. The protests that shook the core of Paris have had continuing impact on politics since that famous moment when students, workers, and philosophers of Paris all took to the streets...

Oct 30: The Now of Paris - We went on a stroll from my local cafe in the 18th, up near the Puces de Saint-Ouen, and wandered down into the heart of the city. En route, we stopped to talk about my local Iranian bookshop (and the fascinating Parisian playwright Yasmina Reza), the refugee crisis, the plague of airbnb, and the city's wonderful markets. We paused respectfully in PLACE DE LA REPUBLIQUE and put the terrorist threat of the past few years into perspective of Parisian history. We walked through the Marais, where we admired the wonderful 17th-century buildings. I talked about King Henri IV and his financial advistor, the Duc de Sully (whose mansion, the Hotel de Sully, is still magnificent--visit the bookshop there if you can read French!) I quoted Georges Simenon, the prolific mystery writer who had an affair with the brilliant American performer & Resistance spy, Josephine Baker. We finished up on ILE DE LA CITE, at the Cafe des Deux Palais. I like to stop for coffee there at the counter, gazing out at Anne of Kiev's old medieval palace, and thinking of all the Parisians who have walked past here, over the centuries...

READING LIST (books I like, or have mentioned in this series)

A Moveable Feast - Ernest Hemingway

The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas - Gertrude Stein

The Selected Letters of Mme de Sevigne 

La Princesse de Cleves - Mme de Lafayette

The Count of Monte Cristo - Alexandre Dumas

if you're interested in Alexandre Dumas & his father, read the excellent biography The Black Count by Tom Reiss.

Cheri - Colette (really, anything by Colette, but this is her masterpiece)

Paris Was Yesterday (memoir/writings from the New Yorker) - Janet Flanner

and... for reliable recipes & cooking that really is inspired by Parisian market produce, check out David Lebovitz's food site/blog

Improbable Walks - Winnipeg, Saskatoon, Halifax

Rivers tell stories. Paths of travel and connection. Forces of destruction and rebirth. Listen. What do we hear? Come walk into a site-specific story inspired by these particular places...

On October 7,  join poets Lisa Pasold & Ariel Gordon on a walk along the Assiniboine River. 

On October 21, join poets Mari-Lou Rowley & Lisa Pasold on a walk along the Saskatoon River. 

On October 28, join writers Nanci Lee, Gwen Davies & Lisa Pasold on a walk through the Commons.

WINNIPEG - Saturday, October 7, 15h – 16h30 - Meet at Bridge Motors Parking Lot, 20 Maryland Street

SASKATOON -Saturday, October 21, 15h - 16h30 - Meet at the parking lot beyond the entrance to Gabriel Dumont Park (715 Saskatchewan Crescent W)

Halifax - Saturday, October 28, 17h - 18h30 - meeting place tba

Cost: Free, but limited number of spaces available. Please register at

The walks go forward whatever the weather and last approximately 80 minutes.

Ariel Gordon is a Winnipeg writer. Her second book, Stowaways (Palimpsest Press, 2014), won the 2015 Lansdowne Prize for Poetry. She is currently writing creative non-fiction about Winnipeg’s urban forest, slated for publication in 2018 with Wolsak & Wynn, and co-editing an anthology of menstruation-lit with Tanis MacDonald and Rosanna Deerchild, due out with Frontenac House in 2018.

Mari-Lou Rowley is an eco-science poet and interdisciplinary adventurer. She has encountered a timber wolf, come between a black bear and her cub, interviewed an Italian astronaut, found over 44 four-leaf clovers, and published nine collections of poetry. Her most recent books are Unus Mundus (Anvil Press 2013) and Transforium (JackPine Press 2012) in collaboration with visual artist Tammy Lu. She is currently finishing a PhD in social media, neuro-phenomenology and empathy at the University of Saskatchewan.

Lisa Pasold has created site-specific walking stories in cities such as New Orleans, Paris, Saskatoon and Toronto. Her storytelling practice is an experience of place with the audience: moving through a landscape or walking down a street, to imagine together possible histories and lives of the specific place and its community. Lisa’s Any Bright Horse (Frontenac House, 2012), was shortlisted for the 2012 Governor General’s Award. Frontenac has just published her new book, The Riparian, “a love story and thirty tragedies, overheard on a piano dismantled, marooned, with the river washing through its exposed strings.”

The Riparian is nearly here

My new book, The Riparian, is coming back from the printers... I am incredibly pleased with the cover--check it out below. The photograph & design are by Neil Petrunia. I can't wait to see it as a real solid book! I have never been very good at patience.

The book will be launched as part of the 2017 Frontenac House Quartet--I'm especially honoured to be reading in the company of writers Billy-Ray Belcourt, Vivian Hansen and Laurie MacFayden. Order a copy of the book here!

In Calgary on Sept 19 at the MEMORIAL PUBLIC LIBRARY (upstairs in the WordFest Space) at 7pm

And for people in Edmonton, we'll be launching the Quartet on Sept 20, at 7pm at Almanac on Whyte.

 "The Riparian is a dangerous shimmering chimeric space where “Things broken wash up.” “Did you expect,” a bartender asks, “a constant party here in the drowned city of the joyful damned?” Pasold strikes a meticulous balance between the hideous and the sublime: suddenly – among water rats, spit, semen, pubic hair, hurt dogs, and missing persons – there is  a sparrow, or a drag queen in a 70s movie poster rock star candy wig. This is a Trump-era epic, an x-ray of a city’s grit, shit,  and sorrow. It is a song with a love story and thirty tragedies, overheard on a piano “dismantled, marooned, / With the  river washing through its exposed strings.” ~ John Wall Barger, author of The Book of Festus.

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