Missing Polly Platt

When I got my first French consulting client in 1994, I found an indispensable guide in the book French or Foe, by Polly Platt. So I made sure we had hauled it east from my office bookshelf in Santa Barbara, and took it with us to Paris, where I began reading it again today, the first full day of our Summer here.

The book was fresh when I got it, and is now sixteen years old. Many of the companies mentioned are long gone, and the Internet was still off in the future when she wrote it. (She instead gives praise to Minitel, a brilliant and doomed creation of French telephony.) But still, the book is brilliant and — for Americans new to France — useful to a degree that verges on the absolute.

So I wondered if she was still around, and looked her up on the Web. Alas, she died on 26 December 2008, in Vienna. But I also discovered that in 2000 she published a companion to French or Foe titled Savoir-Flair: 211 Tips for Enjoying France and the French. I’ll pick that one up tomorrow, if I can find it.

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2 Responses to Missing Polly Platt

  1. Bertil Hatt says:

    There’s actually been several updates (and a couple dozen… “hommages”) if you want to take a glance at… all of them (and find more guides), try rue de Rivoli, near the metro station (or plaza) Concorde: they’ll be a WHSmith (the UK leading bookstore chain) and Galignani, a ancient, still family-owned English Book store. Both are great: I’m partial to Galignagni, my aunt is partial to WHS.

  2. Savoir Flair made a huge difference in my enjoyment of France.

    Without a vocabulary of 20 words or so (which I worked incessantly to pronounce well), I was thrilled to be mistaken for a Parisian at a shop because I understood how French retail works (they are professionals, they know you are there and will get to you as quickly as possible without ignoring the person they are currently with) and that a civilized person opens any conversation with “Bon Soir, Madam”.

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