Marian Parry’s “The Paris Book” (Un-Gyve Press) is an exquisitely drawn love story that dates back to her childhood. Parry, 91, who spent the first four years of her life in Paris, spoke French before she learned English. After her father finished his studies, the family moved to the States.
Parry had nearly completed “The Paris Book,” with her watercolor illustrations and her hand-lettered prose in 1952, but it wasn’t published until last year. She recounted the story of her book’s long journey to publication as Un-Gyve publishers Lisa and Julie Nemrow sat with the book’s “godfather,” Christopher Ricks, and his wife, Judith Aronson, in the couple’s living room. Aronson and Ricks, who is literary adviser to the small Boston publisher, live on the same street in Cambridge as Parry.
A couple years ago when the Nemrow sisters stopped by Ricks’s house, they were drawn to an illustration by Parry that was sitting on the mantle. Ricks told them the story of Parry’s unpublished manuscript for “The Paris Book.” They asked to see it and were immediately sold on it.
Tucked into the opening line, “Once upon a time there was an odd bird who could not endure the world as he found it,” is a watercolor of a well-dressed man with the head of a bird. In fact, every person in the book has the head of a bird. The effect is charming. This odd bird leaves America for Paris and falls in love. He adores the Seine, the chateaus, cathedrals, cafes, even his hotel room. (In Parry’s hands, even the radiator looks elegant.)
Parry, whose work is in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, has illustrated 17 books. The first, “The Space Child’s Mother Goose,” published in 1958 by Simon & Schuster, is still in print.
Un-Gyve published 333 copies of a hardcover limited edition, each one signed by Parry. The price is $150. A paperback edition of “The Paris Book” is being published on May 5.
Parry will be speaking at the Boston Public Library at 6 p.m. May 7.
The ins and outs of gravity will be explored at 8 p.m. Tuesday at Oberon, 2 Arrow St., Cambridge, as part of The Story Collider, a science-oriented storytelling series. The evening will feature stories told by a physicist, an astrophysicist, a cosmologist, and a biological engineer. Tickets are $10.
Newburyport Literary Festival
The 10th annual Newburyport Literary Festival on Saturday will feature festival favorite Andre Dubus III (below left) as well as Lev Grossman, Ann Hood, William Martin, Joyce Maynard (below right), Susan Minot, and a host of other authors and poets. For the schedule of about 50 readings, panel discussions, and events for children, visit www.newburyportliteraryfestival.org
■ “Speak Now: Marriage Equality on Trial” by Kenji Yoshino (Crown)
■ “The Great Divide: Unequal Societies and What We Can Do About Them” by Joseph E. Stiglitz (Norton)
■ “Memory Man” by David Baldacci (Grand Central)
Pick of the Week
Fran Keilty of the Hickory Stick Bookshop in Washington Depot, Conn., recommends “The Witch of Painted Sorrows” by M.J. Rose (Atria): “Set in Belle Époque Paris, it features an American socialite fleeing from her husband in New York to the home of her courtesan grandmother in Paris. There, she uncovers family secrets, discovers both her talent as an artist and her own erotic nature, and confronts the witch La Lune, an ancestor who threatens to possess her. Rose proves herself once again to be a consummate storyteller in this provocative and entertaining novel.”
Jan Gardner can be reached at JanLGardner@yahoo.com.