Paris, Now

An American novelist evokes the City of Light in decline.

“Paris always seemed to me to be the center of the world. The omphalos as they had it in Delphi, the navel.” That’s what Mark Helprin told me as we sat together last fall—not in a Paris café but in New York’s Central Park. The author and journalist was passing through the city to promote his latest novel, Paris in the Present Tense. Later that evening, he lectured at the Albertine bookstore on Fifth Avenue, itself a “navel” of French culture within New York.

Paris in the Present Tense, by Mark Helprin (The Overlook Press, 400 pp., $28.95)