How much personal space is today's writer allowed?

I am nosy by nature, but there was a time when I allowed my favorite authors some personal space. Now, in the age of the blog, the celebrity Facebook ‘friend,’ the Twitter update, I realize that a window into a writer’s private life has come to feel like an expectation instead of a gift.I didn’t realize the shift in my views until my long-awaited read of pastry chef David Lebovitz’s new book, “The Sweet Life In Paris.” At first glance, it fit into the memoir-with-recipes niche that’s currently in vogue in the food world. I welcomed that format, because even with his previous books – straightforward cookbooks and cooking guides – Lebovitz has felt like a beloved colleague in our kitchen.

His recipes are so reliably, stunningly delicious, and he has such a talent for clear explanations. And, from reading his blog over the past few years, I’ve felt some sense of who he might really be, through his likes and dislikes and daily doings as an American expat in Paris.

As author Dianne Jacob recently put it on her own blog, “(Lebovitz) writes as though he’s my best friend: intimate, funny, charming and sweet.”

Lebovitz’s new book is just as delightful as his blog, as entertaining and observant, as packed with knockout recipes. I will cook from it often. I will take notes from it before any future trip to Paris.

And yet, I wanted something different and deeper. I kept hoping for more biography, less anthropology. When Lebovitz mentioned how his emigration from America to France came after the death of his longtime partner, for instance, I couldn’t get over my feeling that I needed to know more about that story.

I know that isn’t fair. Lebovitz shares what he set out to share, the journey that turned an American chef into a semi-Parisian. He even included the recipe for the famous dulce de leche brownies that opened so many doors to him in France. I guess he’s allowed to let us into one part of his life, without opening every door wide.

And if I change my mind on that, I suppose I can always try friending him on Facebook.

Rebekah Denn writes at

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