I’ve really become a fan of my father’s terse texts to me here in France. We never communicate by text, so this has helped me appreciate his voice in the written word. Verbatim, our exchange tonight:

Me: We could Skype if you is free.

Him: Not free. Splitting wood.

Me: And me sitting here in Paree drinking wine! It ain’t right. I’ve had a great time but I’ve also had enough and am ready to get my ass back home.

Him: Thank the Lord.

I thought about this tonight reading two letters written by Thomas Jefferson when he was in Paris, just before the Revolution. They appear in “Americans In Paris,” the (very fine) essay collection edited by Adam Gopnik. In the first, Jefferson praises the French to the moon, raving about their architecture and other aspects of their culture (though he remarks that the harsh division of French society into the have-everythings and the have-nothings is unjust, and not known in America). In the second letter, Jefferson is more critical of French joie de vivre, depicting the French (well, the wealthy French) as frittering away their days in pointless luxury, versus Americans, whose pleasures are more down-to-earth, and therefore more virtuous.