Urbs without blurbs

Urbs without blurbs

A book on how Paris and New York -- with such different histories -- have so much in common

Itu Chaudhuri
December 26 , 2014
01 Min Read

Paris versus New York nominally offers an affectionate match-up between two great metros. Following his pictorial blog where these drawings first appeared, Vahram Muratyan’s often superbly observed, reductive vector art, we get to compare, for example, bagels and baguettes, or the vast difference in coffee servings (petite vs supersize).

But look at (just one example from many) at the precise ways in which a (female) art critic’s hairline might differ in the two cities, and you realise that Muratyan is offering a visual translation rather than a match-up. Read that sentence again: why are those hairlines so nearly identical in the first place?

Flip through the book, and reflect on how two cities with such different histories came to have so much in common. New York owns the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, a centre of financial and cultural heft. Paris had done that, say, two hundred years earlier. It gifted New York its most identifiable symbol, the Statue of Liberty, while New York at best loaned it Hemingway. But there’s no Paris match for 9/11; may there never be.

You can read the book as a reply to a century of Parisian sneers at America’s un-civilisation and a boost to those Yanks who’ve admired Paris thanklessly in return. You’re not so different after all, it seems to say to both cities. The book falls into the category of the highly giftable, visual curiosity, perfect for our time for its lack of anything like an edge, its compressed wisdom and wit.

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