Monday, August 01, 2005

Letters from New Orleans

Buy this book:

Read it. Then eat it. Need I say more?

Yes, I probably do. There are very few accurate depictions of New Orleans. Most just deal out a standard set of ragged clichés: the French Quarter, steamy nights, jazz, voodoo, gumbo, and intrigue. Even locals frequently revert to the same bag of tricks when talking about their city. The real, everyday New Orleans (with all of its own entirely genuine funk and appeal) simply never enters the picture.

Rob Walker is not from here, but he lived here for several years, and his affection for the city is obvious. He writes with interest and intelligence about the little details of life in this New Orleans. I might sometimes quibble with this or that particular assertion (and I passionately disagree with the claim that John Sinclair may be the coolest white man in New Orleans), but the city he describes is fundamentally the city I know and love.

If you're from elsewhere and are curious for a peek behind the facade or you're from here and just enjoy hearing your hometown smartly described, read it.

Then eat it.


  1. Anonymous10:18 PM

    okay okay, i'll go ahead and ask ... what do you mean 'eat it'?

    also ... do you dislike sinclair or is there simply someone else you feel is the coolest?

  2. 'Cuz we eat everything down here in Loo-ziann-uh, cher: nooo-tree-yuh, jawm-buh-lie-yuh, craaww-fish, roaches. Eat it with hotsauce, darlin'. Yeah, actually I don't know why I said it. It just seemed like good advice at the time.

    As for John Sinclair, is there someone else I feel is the coolest? Yeah, duh... me! And this town ain't big enough for the two of us! Oops. Did I type that out loud? Ignore that statement. Really, though, I'll just say that he and his "blues poetry" are not my cup of tea and leave it at that.

  3. Thanks for recommending a great gift for PPOQ. His birthday was last week, and I have two books to give him already, plus an illicit manuscript on matters operatic. But he sojourned for years in the quarter, working for K- & Co., a merchant bank, after he failed to write his dissertation at Tulane, having spent his days at the Sophie Newcombe music library listening to Wagner.

    Maybe I'll read the book first and give it to him for Christmas. Yeah.

  4. Anonymous1:32 AM

    Yeah I met Rob a few years back. He is a nice cat. And I am very happy to see and read his regular column in the NYTimes Magazine.

    To define New Orleans, the ongoing struggle. It is impossible. It means something diferent to each person. Yet I find I am friends with the folks that connect to it the same way I do. I think that might be the same for everyone.

    If you can't stand the funk, move to Metairie.

  5. I read this book a few months Post-Katrina after having lived as an ex-Pat for many years. Rob Walker got it right... after seeing the city the way it is, it was touching to go back and read about the city I remember growing up. It's too bad he lived there after K&B closed shop; I would be interested to read his take on a cherished New Orleans icon.

    I tried eating it and it was too salty for my "been-away-from-SE-Louisiana-too-long" tastebuds. It would probably be better deep fried.