September 09, 1996 12:00 PM

by Art Buchwald

In the spring of 1948, 22-year-old Art Buchwald came to Paris to study on the GI Bill. He came, he saw, and he was quickly put wise about how to take advantage of the U.S. government’s largesse without setting foot in a classroom. Buchwald never learned French. But as his affectionate, if uneven, memoir makes clear, he got a formidable education in the 14 years he spent in the City of Light, first as an impecunious nobody telling pretty lies to pretty girls in cafes, then as a voraciously read columnist for the International Herald Tribune.

Buchwald’s debut as a journalist was not auspicious. He was inclined to end a film review with, “This is a good film if you understand French.” But he found his voice—as an impish innocent abroad—and it was a whiff of home for Americans in Paris. Buchwald dined with Gary Cooper and Ingrid Bergman, crashed parties, attended Grace Kelly’s wedding and, with the sly intervention of Mike Todd’s wife, Elizabeth Taylor, foiled the impresario’s attempts to stick him with a huge restaurant tab. His stories are not all as good as these, but Buchwald is an enthusiastic, generous raconteur and makes his Paris ours as well. (Putnam, $24.95)

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