A Short Review: New Orleans, Mon Amour: Twenty Years of Writings from the City by Andrei Codrescu (Algonquin, 2006)
During the holidays, I read Condrescu’s book. What I suspected would be a good read, delighted me as it turned into a great read. It is a collection of Condrescu’s writings about New Orleans. As usual with good books, I learned much more than I expected and intended to learn. The NPR commentator is a skilled writer and poet, and because I’ve heard him so often on NPR, I could almost hear his voice narrating the text. The diction is that of a poet, and the the allusions those of a careful student of history.
If you are attached emotionally to New Orleans, this is a book you will enjoy reading. Likely, just to list the quotations will require more than one post. Today, I wanted to lift some phrases from the inner jacket that describe the content of the book. In my future posts, I’ll list the books, the historical and cultural allusions and the phrases in the book that I found particularly interesting.
The book’s jacket says: “New Orleans has always been more fabulous than anywhere else.” It is a city where “the official language is dreams. How apt that a refugee born in Transylvania found his home in a place where vampires roam the streets and voodoo queens live around the corner; where cemeteries are the most popular picnic spots, the ghost of poets, prostitutes and pirates are palpable, and jazz seeps out of clubs at all hours of the night in the french Quarter, where no one ever sleeps.”
In this collection of essays, Condrescu reveals how he “befriends artists, musicians, writers, and eccentrics of all persuasions and exposes the city’s underbelly of corruption . . . In teh fall of 2005 many New Orleanians had to leave their beloved city, but Andrei Condrescu makes it abundantly apparent why New Orleans will never leave them.”
As the New York Times Book Review says, “Condrescu manages to be brilliant and insightful, tough and seductive about American culture.”
After this read, I felt I understood the city and its occupants much better. I’ve had several signings in the New Orleans area–at Tisket-A-Tasket and Cabildo Bookstore in the French Quarter; Sam’s Clubs in Kenner, Metarie, Slidell, and Harvey; the Barnes and Noble in Metarie; the Naval base in Algiers, and a few others. My first trip to New Orleans was when I played bass with Johnny Oneal a few years back. We played at one of the Pontchahoula’s there, opening for Dr. John. It was a great and wild weekend. After reading this book, I realized that I was now one of the ones Condrescu wrote of who would always go back to New Orleans. One day, like so many others, I might just go there and decide to never leave. New Orleans is the setting for my novel I’m working on called, Persephone’s Underground, so certainly more research awaits me. Condrescu’s book was a spark, a push to complete the book and an insight to the things my novel and the characters in the novel lacked.