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New Meetup: Hip and Well Read: The Elegance of the Hedgehog Part 2

From: Michelle
Sent on: Friday, August 7, 2009 12:21 PM
Announcing a new Meetup for Hip & Well Read!

What: Hip and Well Read: The Elegance of the Hedgehog Part 2

When: September 2,[masked]:30 PM

Price: $2.00 per person

Philly Diner
3901 Walnut St
Philadelphia, PA 19104

Hey Hipsters and Bibliophiles,

August's book is...

The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery

(however, don't forget that there is still room for the second American Gods meetup!)

From NYT Book Review:
?The Elegance of the Hedgehog,? a best seller in France and several other countries, belongs to a distinct subgenre: the accessible book that flatters readers with its intellectual veneer. (Alain de Botton?s handy guide ?How Proust Can Change Your Life? comes to mind.) The novel?s two narrators alternate chapters, but the book is dominated by Ren?e, a widowed concierge in her 50s who calls herself ?short, ugly and plump,? a self-consciously stereotypical working-class nobody. She is also an autodidact ? ?a permanent traitor to my archetype,? as she drolly puts it ? who takes refuge in aesthetics and ideas but thinks life will be easier if she never lets her knowledge show. Even the slippers she wears as camouflage, she says, are so typical, ?only the coalition between a baguette and a beret could possibly contend in the domain of clich?.?

Her unlikely counterpart is Paloma, a precocious 12-year-old whose family lives in the fashionable building Ren?e cares for. Paloma believes the world is so meaningless that she plans to commit suicide when she turns 13.


Even when the novel is most essayistic, the narrators? kinetic minds and engaging voices (in Alison Anderson?s fluent translation) propel us ahead. And the lives of both characters perk up when the rich, mysterious, charmingly attentive Mr. Ozu moves into the building. His name alone is enough to tantalize Ren?e, and he doesn?t disappoint her. ?You pace up and down a corridor and suddenly enter a room full of light,? she says of their friendship, and his presence also brightens the book, adding emotion and an actual story. Quite near the end, Ren?e and Paloma become friends, too, and Barbery glides ahead more buoyantly than before, displaying her flair as a novelist

Naturally, such a philosophical fiction resolves some issues of life and death for its characters. The shallower question of best-sellerdom may come down to marketing. But the fate of this quirky European success might also defy or reinforce just the sort of baguette-and-beret stereotypes Ren?e finds so obvious and so true ? oh, those philosophical French!

The Elegance of the Hedgehog is available on, however, I encourage you all to support your local independent book store or library:
City Paper's List of Independent Bookstores
Google Map/Listing of Independent Bookstores in Philly

You will notice that that if you RSVP "Yes," you'll be charged to attend. This is to help me cover my costs as Organizer and reduce the number of no-shows we have at meetings. Please keep in mind I'm only giving refunds if the meeting is canceled or rescheduled, not if you change your mind about attending.

Thinking about coming when the Meetup is FULL? Read/click here.

Happy Reading!


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