by David Oates
Oregon State University Press, 2019
Paper: 978-0-87071-981-3 | eISBN: 978-0-87071-982-0
Library of Congress Classification PS3565.A78Z46 2019
Dewey Decimal Classification 811.54

Living in Paris for a winter and a spring and waking each morning to a view of Notre Dame, David Oates is led to revise his life story from one of trudging and occasional woe into one punctuated by nourishing and sometimes unsettling brilliance. In The Mountains of Paris, he offers a technique of reimagining one’s life story that might be available to anyone.

The present tense of the book takes place during the seasons he spends in Paris, sharing an artist’s residency. It is a rare opportunity to consider what it means to be human, through time-stopping moments with music, art, and deep history. The past tense of the book offers memories that intrude into the bustle of Paris life: a Billy Graham crusade at age thirteen, a mountain pass, a love, a loss.

In long years of mountaineering Oates fought the self-loathing which had infused him as the gay kid in the Baptist pew. In The Mountains of Paris, he ascends to a place of wonder through intense, personal narrative encounter with the strangeness of being alive. In his searching, luminous, and inimitable prose, Oates invites readers to share the sense of awe awakened by a Vermeer painting, or the night sky, or the echoing strains of music fading down a Paris street, lifting the curtain on a cosmos filled with a terrifying yet beautiful rightness.

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