LETTER FROM NEW ORLEANS
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The Letter From New Orleans — “pointless, sporadic, and free”— began as a bunch of emails to interested parties, from New Orleans. The new soft-cover book, Letters From New Orleans, includes all the Letters, as well as some additional material.
Subjects covered in Letters From New Orleans include: Celebratory gunfire, rich people, religion, the riddle of race relations in our time, robots, fine dining, drunkenness, urban decay, debutantes, the nature of identity, Gennifer Flowers, the song "St. James Infirmary," and mortality.
All author proceeds from Letters from New Orleans will go to relief organizations such as the Red Cross and others working with victims of Hurricane Katrina, until their situation gets significantly better, or, I suppose, mine gets significantly worse.
Visit the "St. James Infirmary" essay's spinoff web site.
Learn about the quasi-related MLK Blvd photo/Flickr project.
REVIEWS & INTERVIEWS
To listen to an interview about the book on The Brian Lehrer show, click
The book has a deeply personal way of relating to
the reader no matter what Walker is writing about…. A fantastic
read … It is more than just a good book. Its insider-outsider perspective
and street-level historical explorations make it essential for anyone
interested in New Orleans.
“Letters from New Orleans” tells the
stories that you've never heard before and that you just can't hear while
jaunting through the muggy city during Jazz Fest or Mardis Gras. …
Fresh and poignant.."
“Letters From New Orleans” … stands
within the most robust tradition of geography-centered writing. It's a
complicated tribute. In its willingness to pursue topics as far-flung
as musicology, urban decay and the cultural history of Carnival season,
it recalls writers such as V.S. Naipaul, who approach cities and countries
with a hungry interest in demolishing false expectations...
In "Letters from New Orleans," Walker contemplates,
almost wistfully, various notions of denial and self-invention and loss
-- those masks that symbolize the city aren't lost on him. And his pointed,
witty insights about the city won't be lost on readers.
This is not a travel book per se, but rather an
outsider's account of America's strangest town. … This transplanted
New Yorker (via Texas) gives familiar places a new twist, a fresh perspective
… . The chapter on R&B singer Ernie K-Doe's lounge is a masterful
little piece of social observation …. . Seeing the city through
Rob Walker's eyes reveals a place at once familiar and yet different.
Rob Walker has captured so much truth about New Orleans,
and so beautifully ... This book is casual on its surface but demonstrates
a reporter's eye for detail and background, weaving together interviews,
observations and teasingly small bits of personal information.
“[When Walker] delves into New Orleans' culture
and character, you're reminded why the city is such a treasure.”
Walker's first person vignettes are marvelously crafted
and richly conceived. But its Walker's humor that makes Letters From New
Orleans truly unique. … We strongly recommend this enlightening,
eccentric, and most importantly highly entertaining book. It has temporarily
changed our opinion about memoirs.
The quality that makes Walker's "modest series
of stories about a place that means a lot to [him]" rewarding reading
is his immersion in the local. Neighborhood bars, regional history, hometown
notables and a dash of mayoral politics reign in the recurring presence
of New Orleans' dominating event, Mardi Gras. Walker's book, "not
a memoir, a history, or an exposé," won't help a tourist get
around in New Orleans, but it will help him or her see beyond the tour
guide's pointed finger.
Walker focuses primarily on the non-famous people
who make the city run, the unmasked faces behind the parades, the debates
that rage in restaurants and that spill over onto the op-ed pages. Letters
from New Orleans is streetwise, conversational in tone, unimpressed by
cant, and willing to grapple with the city’s weird, compelling racial
heritage. … He returns New Orleans to the place I’ve actually
experienced, the realm of the real.
Wonderfully written, graceful and simple yet full
of insight, presenting the city in a way that's rich and textured.
I’ve read very few essays, articles, books
– almost anything – that really captures a city, a town, or
a “place” so vividly as does Letters from New Orleans.
If you have never been there and you want to understand
the city, this is a great book to accomplish that goal.
Walker writes with interest and intelligence about
the little details of life in *this* New Orleans. … The city he
describes is fundamentally the city I know and love..
Walker's musings reveal him to be an astute observer
of human nature, urban renewal (or lack thereof), tradition, music, economics,
frivolity, and other sociocultural phenomena. ... Letters succeeds as
a collage of eloquent impressions of New Orleans and reads like thoughtful
dispatches from a learned friend.
Recommended for public libraries.
Walker is a wonderful writer with a gentle yet comprehensive inquisitiveness,
the rigorous, observant eye of a journalist, and the light, poetic touch
of an artist. He has managed to make New Orleans — a city that has
been documented and written about for centuries — seem completely
fresh and unfamiliar and wholly compelling. Letters From New Orleans is
a lovely book, and so much more.
Rob Walker's meditation on a three-year sojourn in
New Orleans is as wistful as absinthe, as funky as a muffuletta at a joint