My Brain on Fire

Paris and Other Obsessions

by Leonard Pitt

List Price: $16.95
Paperback | 5.9 x 8.9, 356 pages | ISBN 9781593766344

This is Leonard Pitt’s story of growing up the misfit in Detroit in the 1940s and 50s. In a later age he would have been put on Ritalin and paraded before psychiatrists because he couldn’t pay attention in school. In 1962, at the end of a misguided foray towards a career in advertising he took the ultimate cure, a trip to Paris. He thought it would only be a visit. He stayed seven years. There in the City of Light, Leonard’s mind exploded. And it hasn’t stopped since.

Studying mime with master Etienne Decroux and living in Paris were the university he never knew. This inspiration unleashed a voracious appetite to understand the “why” of things. He asked a simple question, “Why did the ballet go up?” While building a theatre career performing and teaching, he embarked on a quest to study the origins of the ballet, the history of early American popular music, the pre-Socratic philosophers, early modern science, the European witch hunt, the history of Paris, and more. To his unschooled mind it all fits together. Who would see a historical arc between Louis XIV and Elvis Presley? Leonard does. And he’ll tell you about it.

For many years they were taken for granted, but to author and collector Leonard Pitt, vintage, hand-painted French postcards from the late 19th and early 20th centuries are nothing less than "little works of art." More than this, they also serve as historical documents. In this gorgeous collection, Pitt has chosen postcards that show readers a Paris that no longer exists. In his fascinating introduction, he discusses the birth of the postcard. The postcard, he writes, "revolutionized communication and created the first form of social networking equivalent to today’s e-mail." (But, of course, at a much slower pace.) Each postcard is accompanied by informative captions. Pitt also includes sample postcards from American visitors to Paris writing to loved ones back home. The images here are often famous (the Eiffel Tower, the Arc de Triomphe, the Moulin Rouge) and majestic (Paris’ grand boulevards), but there also are plenty of examples of ordinary Parisians going about their business. It’s an utterly charming collection that captures a moment in time.

 
Chicago Tribune
1/4

With the minutiae of an archeologist, [Pitt] reveals the history of the City’s transformation . . . old Paris comes to life under our eyes.

 
—Les Echos
2/4

An astonishing voyage through Paris.

 
Pariscope
3/4

This American of Paris, artist and inveterate seeker, is not made like common mortals . . . He is an archeologist, but of the eyes. He pokes around, rummages through every nook and cranny, in passageways, courtyards and hidden facades. Showing us what we no longer see because our personal and collective memories have done their job of forgetting, this is what this quirky kind of Parisian loves doing.

 
Detours en France
4/4

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