On the Southern Literary Trail discussion

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General Bookishness > Books in and about New Orleans?

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message 1: by Derrick (new)

Derrick (noetichatter) I am looking to spend some time in literary New Orleans. It's something I have not spent time on, and I am getting curious.

What do you suggest?


message 2: by LeAnne: (last edited Apr 12, 2016 06:12AM) (new)

LeAnne: GeezerMom | 1310 comments As a New Orleanian, I'm a pretty tough audience for most books set here and written by outsiders. Depending on what you're in the mood for, here are some ideas.

CLASSICS: The two plays, A Streetcar Named Desire and Other Plays|51210] and Suddenly Last Summer and Other Plays by Tennessee Williams are excellent and quite dark. Classic books set here are A Confederacy of Dunces and The Movie-goer. They are excellent, but have to be read through a view-finder for their era.

CONTEMPORARY NONFICTION: I loved Nine Lives: Death and Life in New Orleans and Five Days at Memorial: Life and Death in a Storm-Ravaged Hospitalfor nonfiction views into Katrina, especially the latter. Another (supposedly) nonfiction Katrina book called Zeitoun is good, however I know the family of house painters that the story is written about - one was convicted of fraud (most incidents of cheating customers in the history of NOLA's Better Business Bureau) and he got in a fistfight in my backyard. I am skeptical that the story is true, but it is well written by Eggers. 1 Dead in Attic: Post-Katrina Stories is a collection of shattering true stories written by a local newspaper columnist, but they will make you depressed, and The Great Deluge: Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans, and the Mississippi Gulf Coast is mostlya hateful political rant.

FICTION
Much of the fiction that comes out about our city doesn't appeal to me, probably because it is written by outsiders who cannot quite get the authenticity down. Here are my top three picks from local guys.

If you're okay with the area just outside of New Orleans, I suggest Rivers for a dark adventure set about 45 minutes from here on the Mississippi Gulf Coast - one of my fave books. My Sunshine Away takes place in Baton Rouge but touches on New Orleans. It is an excellent coming-of-age mystery. The Clearing is set in a 1930s cypress forest in south Louisiana where a pair of brothers is clearing timber for the family business. Tim Gautreaux also wrote a book set in New Orleans proper (The Missing) which is very good, but I still prefer The Clearing.

City of Refuge is a book I own but haven't gotten around to, although the ratings are very good. I did not care for Dollbaby or any of the Anne Rice books (despite living just blocks away from the house featured in the witches books). Erica Spindler is a successful writer who lives just a few miles away, but I'm not crazy about her genre. The Silence of Bonaventure Arrow and Landfall might be good, but reviews from locals haven't been so great. Depends on what you're looking for.

Hope this helps! I'm probably too close to the city to be a reasonable judge :)


message 3: by Derrick (new)

Derrick (noetichatter) An excellent beginning, thank you. :-)

What's wrong with something like The Witching Hour? Is it just bad writing, in your opinion? Or does it misrepresent the city?

It's time I read some Walker Percy anyway, speaking of Movie-Goer.


message 4: by LeAnne: (new)

LeAnne: GeezerMom | 1310 comments The whole witch and vampire genre just doesn't do it for me, but if you enjoy that sort of thing, the witch books were more appealing than the vampire ones.

I've read three of her witch books, maybe four about the vampires, and one about a free man of color - seriously, I TRIED to love them. Anne lived only a few blocks from us back in the 90s, and the house she described in that first Mayfair witch book looks exactly like her old house. Anyway, despite being neighbors, I just couldn't get into them.


message 5: by LeAnne: (new)

LeAnne: GeezerMom | 1310 comments If you'd settle for a partial New Orleans setting, Galveston by Nic Pizzolatto is fantastic, however as the title makes obvious, the bulk of the story is on the Texas coast. Pizzolatto is the writer of True Detective, and is a New Orleans native. He grew up in Lake Charles and nails the poor scrabble lifestyle perfectly.

The Missing, by Gautreaux, is set in New Orleans during the hale times of paddle wheelers, but it also travels upriver along with the boat that is the primary setting for the story. Its good historical fiction.


message 6: by Ron (new)

Ron (mrkurtz2) | 40 comments Walker Percy is your man. His "The Thanatos Syndrome: A Novel" first published in 1987 is one of his last novels and I think better than the "Moviegoer". It is about a drugged water supply in a small La. parrish and there is also a crooked evangelist who can heal people that he touches. Walker Percy was instrumental in getting "A Confederacy of Dunces" (An American comic masterpiece) by John Kennedy Toole published 10 years after Toole committed suicide because he could not get 'Dunces' published. And last, just a short trip up the road in Baton Rouge there was the fictional story of the greatest populist of his era Willie Stark, the governor of Louisiana, who led the State of Louisiana into a swamp of kingfishers and alligators. The book is "All the King's Men" by Robert Penn Warren who had just starting teaching at LSU, the year before Huey P. Long was shot and killed on the state house steps but that may not be where it happened - fiction and nonfiction have long been confused with each other in Louisiana.


message 7: by Carmen (new)

Carmen Slaughter | 15 comments Out of the Easy and Dollbaby were both very good.


message 8: by Derrick (new)

Derrick (noetichatter) Thanks for the suggestions! Looks like I have some good reading to begin the new year.


message 9: by Karin (last edited Apr 07, 2016 01:45PM) (new)

Karin I recently read Twelve Bar Blues, much of which takes place in New Orleans, although not all of it. I gave it 4 stars, which is quite high for me given the grittiness of it. It's written by a British author, though, a former music journalist.


Jenny (Reading Envy) (readingenvy) | 178 comments A few more suggestions if you venture into genre reading:

I loved the Rickey and G-Man series by Poppy Z. Brite - they have crime, drug culture, and restaurant culture all wrapped up (with a little dose of an actual gay relationship!)

Another favorite is Nathan Ballingrud, a fantasy-horror writer who writes the most amazing short stories, sometimes set in New Orleans. North American Lake Monsters: Stories contains one such story - The Way Station, post-Katrina, about a man haunted by a city. Another horror collection - Year's Best Weird Fiction, Volume Two - contains his story "The Atlas of Hell," set in the swamps. Chilling.

A recent book I read is by newcomer Srdjan Smajic, who lives in New Orleans. His first novel was published last year and is about private investigator Jimmy Petrovich, navigating the broken post-Katrina landscape. So another crime novel but very place-based.


message 11: by Carol (new)

Carol (carolfromnc) I know this thread's been out there for several months. If you're still interested, check out Barbara Hambly's series - historical fiction - featuring Benjamin January. I only read Book 1, A Free Man of Color, which is set in the 1830s. All are set in New Orleans. I've heard from friends the whole series is solid.


message 12: by Kim (new)

Kim Kaso | 590 comments I've read several of the Benjamin January books, they are excellent.


message 13: by LeAnne: (new)

LeAnne: GeezerMom | 1310 comments Jenny (Reading Envy) wrote: "A few more suggestions if you venture into genre reading:

I loved the Rickey and G-Man series by Poppy Z. Brite - they have crime, drug culture, and restaurant culture all wrapped up (with a littl..."


Here's a touch of "seven degrees of Kevin Bacon" for you, Jenny! Poppy Brite's dad was a professor of finance at UNO and he worked for my hubby as a financial advisor. UNO is the same university where author M.O. Walsh teaches - we did his My Sunshine Away book last May if you'll remember.


message 14: by Laura (new)

Laura (twlightzonebookworm) Noetic_Hatter wrote: "I am looking to spend some time in literary New Orleans. It's something I have not spent time on, and I am getting curious.

What do you suggest?"

I also would suggest "My Sunshine Away" by Walsh. I am close to finishing the book and I must say that I have enjoyed the book. I hope his next book doesn't take another 7 years to write.


message 15: by Tim (new)

Tim (tim_taylor) | 11 comments For something a little off the beaten path, I recommend trying The Sound of Building Coffins by Louis Maistros. It's a beautifully written book filled with magical realism, voodoo, jazz... A lot of what you might vision when you think of New Orleans.


message 16: by Diane, "Miss Scarlett" (new)

Diane Barnes | 3822 comments Mod
There was a wonderful article in today's NYT op-ed page by Walsh. His son has a severe reaction to fire ant bites which could be fatal, so he's become a fire ant stalker.


message 17: by Jennilee (new)

Jennilee Big Mama | 1 comments The casquette girls is great it's about New Orleans haunted history


message 18: by Derrick (new)

Derrick (noetichatter) Awesome, y'all!


message 19: by Melody (last edited Apr 15, 2016 04:47PM) (new)


message 20: by B. R. (last edited Sep 30, 2016 06:49PM) (new)

B. R. Reed (mtmoon) | 112 comments LeAnne wrote: "As a New Orleanian, I'm a pretty tough audience for most books set here and written by outsiders. Depending on what you're in the mood for, here are some ideas.

CLASSICS: The two plays, A Streetca..."


Definitely agree with 'Streetcar and I liked A Confederacy of Dunces despite wanting to strangle the protagonist, I think Reilley was the name. Years ago my wife and I read an account of a notorious N.O. madam who ran a French Quarter whorehouse that catered to the politicians, the wealthy and perhaps the police brass. Not especially well written but an interesting true story about the "oldest profession." I need to give The Moviegoer another shot. I set it down a few yrs ago less than a third of the way thru the book.


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