What Makes French Letters Tick?

Have you checked out your navel lately?  I know it sounds a bit kinky, in a neck-cricking sort of way, but I find that every so often a little navel-gazing does most of us good.  

Recently I received an email from a reader telling me how she sees French Letters, and asking why I do what I do.  Which, when you think of it, is a really good invitation to self-examination, and makes for a timely wrap up to the blog’s first year in the world. 

Somewhere in the early part of my life I came across Socrates’ notion that “the unexamined life is not worth living” and apparently it made quite an impression on me.  So, thanks to N.S., whom I’ve never met, for this reminder to stop and take a good look at the inner workings of what’s become a very nice part of my life.  Here’s some of what she said:

“I read your blog faithfully. I’m still trying to work out what to say, if anything, to your “bird in the hand” entry; it strikes so close to my heart that I fear writing the wrong thing.”

Friends of French Letters, there’s no wrong thing you could say.  The Comment section of the blog is a place for readers to express themselves, and you are all cordially invited to do so.  If something touches you, please, touch back!

“The French Letters is becoming, for me, less a blog and more a series of really fine essays. I think what you’re writing is on a par with the essays of Joan Didion and Maya Angelou. Seriously. “

Thank you for the compliment, but if I took that seriously we’d need the Jaws of Life to extract my swollen head from the biggest bird Air France flies! 

I keep wondering what the driving force is for blogging……. I’m curious about whether the blog is good exercise, good exposure, good advertisement, a venue for expression, all of the above, or something else I’ve overlooked. I’d love to know your thoughts on this, if you care to respond.”

Whew.  That’s a series of hard questions.  I could start by asking my Inner Blogger whether I write for mainly you or for myself.  That’s easy, the answer is both.  But would I write if you didn’t read?  Probably not.  Would my life be different without French Letters?  Totally.  Would yours?  I hope so.

I write about the things that make a difference in my life, and hope they’ll make some small difference in yours as well.  However, I have to agree that the line between essay writing and blogging is a bit floue for me, blurry.  Does that matter?

Well, sure.  To call myself an essayist would be to take myself too seriously.  As a blogger I have a wonderful freedom, to be silly, irreverent, post pictures of my lunch, brag about my cat, all the things Joan Didion would probably like to do but can’t because she’s, well, Joan Didion.  Because a blog is in the moment, if we suddenly can’t drink the water here in town or a kid grabs a bull by the tail in the main street, I get to write about it as if it were a Big Deal.

Of course, to me it is a big deal.  It’s all a big deal, and you might even say that’s my specialty, making a big deal out of the daily minutiae of our life in France.  When I was a kid my Mom was forever saying that I tended to make mountains out of molehills, and you know, for once I think she might have been right.

But lately I’ve been asking myself whether I dare to dig a little deeper.  I’d like to write about what the French people think about the upcoming American elections.  I might like to tackle the topic of how French society is changing before our very eyes.  Sometimes I think French Letters should have a little less food and wine, and a little more France.

But then, those would be essays.  The blog could become more serious.  Standards might have to be imposed.  The Fun Quotient might go down.  Beppo might no longer feel at home as a French Letters regular.

And how about you, friends met and unmet?  If you could make one French Letters wish for the coming year, what would it be?  After all, I write for you as least as much as I do for myself, so you should get to have a say in all this.  Because, finally, it’s as much about communication as it is about self-expression.

And then, in a few days, I promise that I’m going to take you on a road trip to Amsterdam and Bretagne, to reward you for your faithful reading of whatever it is I’m writing here.

Explore posts in the same categories: At Home In France

13 Comments on “What Makes French Letters Tick?”

  1. Debra Lane Says:

    Abra, I look forward to your blog for many reasons, the way you tell a story, the beautiful photos and of course any foodie information or display. I for one would LOVE to hear your perspective on the American election. I am a total political junkie for the entire season. It would be an interesting perspective on how it is viewed from another country looking in.

  2. Karen K. Says:

    Your writing has opened my eyes and my mind into another country, another family’s way of living and putting food on the table and traveling and eating with friends and family, the good times and the not-so-good – I’ve laughed and cried over your blog entries – you’ve opened a door into your life in such a beautiful way, I can only be grateful for finding the door again. I am truly touched by what I read, Abra, and am sure that you will find the balance between whimsy and beauty, fun and seriousness, the mountains and the molehills that will continue to be such a welcome part of my view into your life.

  3. Sandra Gilmore Says:

    I routinely read your blog mainly because it enables me to be transported to France vicariously. My husband and I (and usually our sons, 21 & 23) go to France every year…but only for a number of weeks. This October we will be in Caunes-Minervois, a boat on the Canal du Midi and then Banyuls-sur-mer. Your photographs are superb and your writing easy and interesting. I understand you will be staying on for another year of enjoying yourselves. I’m happy for you and that I will get to continue to read of your adventures.

  4. Ray Says:

    How have you made friends so easily there? What made you decide to stay another year?
    THANKS for French Letters…it’s part of my regular readings……

  5. Well Abra – I am new to the blogosphere, both reading and writing, that is. You see until about 2 months ago, I was on dial-up and there was very little net-surfing for me. So i am discovering a whole world out there. Including your blog. To which I am coming back often.

    You expressed so well why you blog. I understand. and maybe I understand even better because our situations are a little reversed. I am French. my home is in the US (Virginia, actually). It’s very interesting to see my native country (which I left half a life-time away) through your eyes.

    I look forward to read more.

    Thank you

  6. Abra Bennett Says:

    It’s so nice to hear from all of you! Ray, I know you’ve asked before how we made friends, and really, it’s been startlingly easy. The south of France is a relaxed and friendly place, and we’re relaxed and friendly people. We take a lot of classes and meet people that way, and we talk to everyone we interact with. We’re here to learn about French life and culture, and we let that show. People here are curious about Americans and naturally want to show us their world when they find out we’re interested. It’s an amazing experience.

  7. I would say that it’s easy to make friends (just about) anywhere if you are respectful of their culture and of the individuals you are meeting (which means to learn a little before hand about them, their country and their history, as to avoid the obvious “faux-pas”), open without being pushy, interested in them and their lives without being obnoxious, truly wanting to learn and being grateful for the experience – and not be afraid to apologize if you sense something is wrong.

    Enjoy the coming year Abra. Keep writing… please.

  8. Nancy Says:

    Oh, do keep writing, and write about whatever pleases you! If I were to pick the direction for French Letters, I’d say: don’t change a thing. Well, except to delve deeper and tell us more about the French people, French society, and what they think of the American elections and politics. What’s happening with French politics? How is French society changing? Tell us more about the French attitude toward animal protection. Is there a French equivalent of the ASPCA? Do they need one? Has anything brought you up short lately to show you how much your perspective on France has changed in one year?

    I would welcome some serious delving, but not at the expense of whimsy, please. We still need to know how Beppo is doing, and whether you’ve chosen a friend for him. We need to taste your glorious foods vicariously. We need to check out the countryside and the fashions and the funny parades and fun parties, and whether Shel is trying to convince you to ride the Tour de France route. We need to hear about plumbing. And we need to keep seeing your beautiful photos. And we need to read your travelogues for our own enjoyment and, perhaps, inspiration to go travel more. Bretagne and Amsterdam, coming up…I can hardly wait!

    We all meet and touch at this interface between blogger and reader, and you’ve created a relaxed and friendly space here, in keeping with your personality. Thank you.

  9. Nancy Says:

    I’d like to add my compliments for the adept illustrations for this blog entry: much the same scene, examined through different perspectives, filters, exposures and angles. The photo sequence is a wonderful metaphor for a life well-examined.

  10. Abra Bennett Says:

    Nancy, thanks for “getting it” about the photos for this post!

  11. Heidi Says:

    I echo the other comments and would add that I do not see you making mountains out of molehills, rather I see you taking the time to wonder at the nuances and beauty of the molehills. Your photos and writing help me to see my own surroundings with new joy and wonder. Thank you!

  12. shaya Says:

    Abra, you have already heard how I feel about your writing, it is truly special. I was very moved by the various photos of the gorgeous flowers. This entry sends me off to ponder the meaning of my existence and making it a life worth living. As for the future, while it is true many of us are drawn to reading your words because of a shared passion for food and drink, but the pleasure of reading this blog is found equally in entries that speak to totally unrelated topics. Which is a testament to the clarity of your writing and freshness of your perspetive.

  13. arbto Says:

    thanks a lot

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