Virgil Thomson, an intimate of Gertrude Stein, said once that it was better to be poor in Paris than in America because "I'd rather starve in a place with good food." Sparkle Hayter's character Shay in the short story Deus ex Machina, (in the collection Paris Noir edited by Maxim Jakubowski) tries to live by that philosophy, but it is hard. She is working illegally in France, she is being short-changed by her unscrupulous employer, her literary ambitions are going nowhere. When will she achieve the success of the indigent great authors of yore?
Meanwhile, there's food.
...but now she wonders if it isn't better to starve in a place with bad food, where the warm gusts of air and laughter escaping through restaurant doors on cold winter nights are scented with less delicious flavours and don't remind her how long it has been since she's been able to afford even a medium-rare bavette in Béarnaise sauce with frites and a glass of beer, under ten euros in most joints in her neighbourhood. And besides, those who found inspiration and the seeds of prosperity in hard times were usually iconoclastic geniuses. She isn't even sure any more she has even the spark to genius, that she can justify coming here.