“I laughed until my sides hurt at Carpenter’s lighthearted and self-deprecating take on living in l’Hexagone.” —Kimberley Lovato, author of Walnut Wine & Truffle Groves

When Scott Carpenter moves from Minnesota to Paris, little does he suspect the dramas that await: scheming neighbors, police denunciations, surly demonstrators, cooking disasters, medical mishaps—not to mention all those lectures about cheese! It turns out that nothing in the City of Light can be taken for granted, where even trips to the grocery store lead to adventure.

Everything is grist for Carpenter’s mill. In eighteen tales, he lifts the curtain on what passes for normal in Europe’s most glorious capital: neighbors who plot to murder one another, hiccups in transportation, bizarre store exchange policies, operatic dramas in the condo association, healthcare à la française, underground labyrinths, and even terrorism. In the company of a cast of recurring characters, he leads us through the merry labyrinth of the everyday, one hilarious faux pas after another. Through it all, Carpenter, winner of Mark Twain House Royal Nonesuch Prize for humor, keeps his eye on the central mystery of what makes the French French (and Midwesterners Midwestern).

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Praise for French Like Moi

“I’ve read dozens of personal Paris memoirs over the past two decades living in France, so I know how rare it is for books in this genre to achieve the trifecta of being well-written, humorous, and original in their musings. Scott Dominic Carpenter’s French Like Moi is not only full of spot-on cultural observations and the laugh-out-loud-yet-self-deprecating humor Minnesotans do so well, it’s also beautifully written with a timeless literary flair sorely missing in these days of the Paris-blog-to-book factory.” —Heather Stimmler-Hall, author of Naughty Paris, and editor of the Secrets of Paris website.

“Sit back with a croissant and an espresso—or better yet, du vin et du fromage—and treat yourself to the delights and dilemmas of being a Midwesterner in Paris. Reading Scott Carpenter’s tales of life in the French capital will make you laugh, marvel, and daydream about amping up the adventure in your own life. Merci Monsieur Carpenter!” —Lorna Landvik, author of Chronicles of a Radical Hag

“In this literary tango between Paris and the Midwest, Carpenter captures the ironies, oddities, and attractions of the French capital in a way few writers have achieved—which is saying a lot, considering how many have tried their hand at conjuring the City of Light…. A delightful romp.” —D. Donovan, Midwest Book Review

“Hilarious! Five Stars.” —Readers’ Favorite

“Deeply French but also deeply Midwestern—and thus rather perfect.” —Alethea Black, author of I Knew You’d Be Lovely

“As a perpetual student of French, homeowner in France, and eternally bewildered at the nuanced and deep cultural differences between our two countries, I laughed until my sides hurt at Carpenter’s lighthearted and self-deprecating take on living in l’Hexagone. Of course Paris is a main character in his tale and the place where, in his words, ‘it all goes down.’ Ultimately, however, the city is the object of his heart-stopping, unwavering love. For loyal lovers of Paris and France, and anyone who’s moved abroad or is thinking about it, French Like Moi is a jovial reminder to pack your patience and your dictionary, and gobble up every single, butter-soaked morsel of the journey.” —Kimberley Lovato, author of Walnut Wine & Truffle Groves: Culinary Adventures in the Dordogne

When a Minnesotan moves to Paris, what could possibly go wrong? The answer: everything. While battling bureaucracy, dodging riots, and scampering through catacombs, prize-winning humorist Scott Dominic Carpenter takes on the City of Light. In eighteen hilarious accounts, he lifts the curtain on what makes the French French—and Midwesterners Midwestern.

Part One: CAME

Murders in the Rue Bobillot
Either/Or
La Modification
City of Light Bulbs
The Immigrant
The Tab (Or: How to Get in Trouble Without Really Trying)
The General Assembly

Part Two: SAW

French Like Moi
The Acute and the Grave
Squirrel Pie and the Golden Derrière
Some Assembly Required
The Medi-Morphosis
The Cartesian Method

Part Three: CONQUERED

Cock-o-Van
War of the Worlds
Underground Man
Too Soon, Too Close
Invisible

Acknowledgments
About the Author

From Chapter One

“Murders in the Rue Bobillot”

“To be honest,” Madame C replied in French, “the problem is the neighbors. They refuse to die.”

The comment sent my tea gurgling down the wrong pipe. While I hacked and wheezed, our hostess pinched her brow with concern. Her companion, Patricia, tendered a napkin, in case my insides came out.

Ça va, Monsieur Carpenter?

Ça va,” I croaked, flapping my hand to keep her at bay. Repeating it seemed a good idea. “Ça va, ça va.

Anne, who’d been off inspecting the kitchen, returned to the living room to pound me on the back. Madame C perched primly on the sofa, and Patricia added cubes of sugar to their tea. The mood was far from homicidal.

This kind of thing occurred with distressing frequency in Paris: I’d start a conversation on one topic only to find it veering into another. While I squinted at the butcher’s explanation about cutlets, the road would somehow fork off to plumbing. At the post office I’d be learning about air mail options, only to feel the clerk had hairpinned to the subject of Etruscan pottery. Swerves like this generally meant I’d misunderstood some crucial word, had careened off the conversational cliff, and had been airborne for an undetermined amount of time. So, when Madame C mentioned murder as her reason for selling the apartment, I recognized the floating sensation and braced for impact.

Where, I wondered during the fall, had I gone wrong? After all, the verb mourir had definitely whizzed by, calling to mind the deathiness of mortgages and mortuaries. And I was pretty sure she’d said something about neighbors. Of course, there’d been a slew of other words, too, some of them possibly significant. It’s always hard to tell which parts of a foreign language are the engines and axles, and which are the hood ornaments and air fresheners.

There was still a chance to land it. Sometimes, if you play along, the matter will sort itself out.

“So why do you suppose that is?” I said. “I mean, why is it the neighbors won’t…?” And here I made a rolling gesture with my hand, inviting Madame C to fill in the gap with some clarifying comment.

She shrugged: it was inexplicable. Monsieur and Madame Pottard were old and infirm, but they simply “refused.”

“You mean they refuse to…?” My hand swirled.

They refused to partir, she said—that is, to “leave.”

“Like, to an old folks’ home?”

“No.” Her look went steely. “To the grave.”

Minnesota-born and Midwest-bred, Scott Dominic Carpenter is the author of Theory of Remainders: A Novel (named to Kirkus Reviews’ “Best Books of 2013”) and of This Jealous Earth: Stories. Winner of a Mark Twain House Royal Nonesuch Prize (2018), recipient of a Minnesota State Arts Board grant, and semi-finalist for the Many Voices Project Prize, he has published work in a wide variety of venues, including The Rumpus, Silk Road, Catapult, South Dakota Review, and various anthologies.