Wednesday, September 11, 2013

New Orleans - Part 2 - Books and the Big Easy!

As mentioned in my previous post (here) my wife and I had the great pleasure of visiting New Orleans for the first time in June 2013...we spent all our time over the 4 days in the French Quarter and we can't wait to return! We had some places on our must-see (and must-eat) list and had done some quick planning by reading a Fodor's guide.

But I recently read a book that I wish I had before our visit to New Orleans! (I received a review copy from LSU Press shortly after our return):

The Booklover's Guide to New Orleans by Susan Larson (LSU Press, 2013; updated from 1999 edition)

From the publisher:

The literary tradition of New Orleans spans centuries and touches every genre; its living heritage winds through storied neighborhoods and is celebrated at numerous festivals across the city. For booklovers, a visit to the Big Easy isn t complete without whiling away the hours in an antiquarian bookstore in the French Quarter or stepping out on a literary walking tour. Perhaps only among the oak-lined avenues, Creole town houses, and famed hotels of New Orleans can the lust of "A Streetcar Named Desire", the zaniness of "A Confederacy of Dunces", the chill of "Interview with the Vampire", and the heartbreak of Walker Percy's "Moviegoer" begin to resonate.

Susan Larson s revised and updated edition of The Booklover s Guide to New Orleans not only explores the legacy of Tennessee Williams and William Faulkner, but also visits the haunts of celebrated writers of today, including Anne Rice and James Lee Burke. This definitive guide provides a key to the books, authors, festivals, stores, and famed addresses that make the Crescent City a literary destination.

Susan Larson, book editor of the New Orleans Times-Picayune from 1988 to 2009, now hosts WWNO’s public radio program The Reading Life. A founder of the Women’s National Book Association of New Orleans and a board member of the Tennessee Williams/New Orleans Literary Festival and the New Orleans Public Library, she continues to support and share New Orleans’s literary heritage.

My review:

Honestly, it never even occurred to me to consider visiting and touring a city based on its literary tradition!

The author, in this updated guide, does a splendid job! But it's much more than just a tour guide to what to see in terms of New Orleans' book-related history!

Part biography, part tour guide - bookstores, famous homes, etc., part history - from the writings of the earliest explorers/settlers to survivors of Katrina to a list of archives of interest to literary historians and anyone interested in primary sources on the city's history, part literary guide - what to read about the city - fiction, nonfiction, children's, books by famous New Orleanians, and a dedicated section to works on also includes delightful sections on where to read...and write!

(I can imagine sipping coffee and people-watching and writing at a table at Cafe du Monde...although I think the powdered sugar from the beignets would ruin a laptop keyboard!)

Cafe du Monde - photo by Jim Schmidt

We came upon some of the sites quite by accident - one of Tennessee Williams' houses, for example - but even in just the Quarter we could have found much more with the benefit of this wonderful book.

I will definitely use it in planning our next visit and I can;t help but think my future travel to other cities will take into consideration their literary histories.

I've only a few minor comments on the book - there are no maps, which makes orienting and planning (from an easy chair) a bit more challenging; I also would have liked to see more illustrations.

Highly recommended!

Many thanks to LSU Press for the review copy!

1 comment:

Mark said...

Great pics, makes me want to go back:)