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Book description

The neighborhoods of New Orleans have given rise to an extraordinary outpouring of important writing. Over the last century and a half or so, these stories and songs have given the city its singular place in the human imagination. This book leads the reader along five thoroughfares that define these different parts of town – Royal, St. Claude, Esplanade, Basin, and St. Charles – to explore how the writers who have lived around them have responded in closely related ways to the environments they share. On the outskirts of New Orleans today, the city's precarious relation to its watery surroundings and the vexed legacies of race loom especially large. But the city's literature shows us that these themes have been near to hand for New Orleans writers for several generations, whether reflected through questions of masquerade, dreams of escape, the innocence of children, or the power of money or of violence or of memory.


‘A thoughtful, comprehensive stations-of-the-cross journey through the literary history and traditions of a city that has done more, pound for pound, to create our American culture than any other. If you love New Orleans, you need this compendium in your library. If you don't love New Orleans, there is something wrong with you and this volume is as valuable a medicinal as a Wild Tchoupitoulas album, a Zulu golden coconut or the middle section of the menu at Mosca's.’

David Simon Source: The Wire and Tremé

‘Dazzling in depth and breadth, this book sings with the voices of those who have been moved to create art about New Orleans, from Walt Whitman to Zora Neale Hurston to Beyonce to Maurice Carlos Ruffin. An outstanding endeavor, for anyone who loves New Orleans, anyone who loves literature, and of course, for anyone who loves both.’

Jesmyn Ward - two-time winner of the National Book Award

‘T. R. Johnson has summoned a parade of ghosts from a town that has always been made of memories, dreams, and shadows. They dance through these pages and down these old streets, story by story, generation by generation, far into the night. Johnson makes it joy to follow along.’

Rickie Lee Jones - Two-time Grammy Winner

‘In this insightful volume, T. R. Johnson analyzes New Orleans writers, past and present, by where they lived—their streets, neighborhoods, and neighbors. What results is a fascinating exploration of the roles played by local inspiration and social propinquity in the creation of literature—and confirmation that New Orleans is, indeed, a world unto itself.’

Richard Campanella - two-time winner of the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities Book-of-the-Year-Award

‘A nuanced and captivating literary geography of one of the world’s truly unique places.’

Ladee Hubbard - Guggenheim Fellow

‘If you only read one book about New Orleans, make it this one. Because if you do, you'll go on to read many more books about the city. T. R. Johnson, who has read them all, gives you a hundred possible entry points. If you already know your way around New Orleans, you'll be intrigued by the way he spatializes the city's literature, taking it neighborhood by neighborhood, making any number of surprising connections as he glides through a dizzying panorama of writing - yes, including music - that has emerged out of this world-historic treasure of a city in the three centuries since it first rose out of the swamp.’

Ned Sublette - Guggenheim Fellow, historian, composer, film-maker, and Afro-Pop Worldwide radio producer

‘Much of what I know about New Orleans and its literature, I learned from T. R. Johnson. In this book, he distills a lifetime's worth of knowledge into a compulsively readable and richly rewarding guide to the city and its literary culture, perfect for visitors, but also for aficionados, who will be reminded that, in New Orleans, there's always another layer to uncover.’

Zachary Lazar - Winner of the John Updike Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters

'The book shows how New Orleans and its literature both grow together, feeding off each other . . . a masterpiece in its architecture and its scope.'

Source: Counterpunch

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