Letters From New Orleans
Paperback; 226 pages
Garrett County Press
Former Texan and Greenwich Villager Rob Walker and his girlfriend, E., relocated to New Orleans in January, 2000. The former journalist and editor immediately began relating his experiences and impressions via e-mail, first to friends, then to anyone who expressed interest. Here are twenty-one letters, ending with the couple's August, 2003 departure, plus some post-Katrina musings.
Letters From New Orleans is about the culture of New Orleans, broadly speaking. Two of Walker's best chapters, for example, are on public housing and urban renewal/removal. Musically, you'll find chapters on jazz funerals (the real thing and the ones aimed at tourists), singer Michelle Shocked at the gospel tent of Jazz Fest, a show by Ernest K-Doe (singer/composer of 1961's "Mother-in-Law"), and a particularly fascinating exploration of the pedigree of "St. James Infirmary," reaching back to late 18th century Ireland.
Interestingly, at the end of a book focused on the unique aspects of New Orleans, in his post-Katrina chapter Walker considers what makes New Orleans similar to the rest of America.
If you've experienced New Orleans, no doubt something here will resonate for you. If, like me, you've never been to the Crescent City, you may still find Walker's dispatches thoughtful and entertaining. The book includes 48 black & white photos.