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Odd Words December 16, 2010

Posted by The Typist in New Orleans, NOLA, Odd Words, Toulouse Street.
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A Year In Reading is a popular theme with literary magazines and blogs. I’m not sure where the title comes from but the online magazine TheMillions offering a good sample of authors and others listing the best new books they have read this year, including a list from [sigh] Maud Newton. I’ve bought an awful lot of books myself this year, a mix of books by featured readers at local poetry saloons (no, that’s not a typo) and works I found through places like TheMillions.com, TheRumpus.net, LitDrift.net, MaudNewton.com’s blog and similar sources. (Sorry, my old ink-stained colleagues but I don’t read the New York or LA Times reviews).

Reading genuinely new books requires a willingness to plunk down $25 and up for the hardback if you’re talking about major publishers, so any list I might attempt would be pretty thin. Among the new to the world (and not just to me) books I read this year and would recommend are I hope it’s not over; and goodbye, Selected Poems of Everette Maddox from the University of New Orleans Press.

Maddox has been one of my favorites since I first discovered him. His poetry is at once accessible in the simplicity of its language and exceptionally powerful at evoking just the emotion or idea he set out to plant in the readers mind, or at least get off his chest. So help out a university press in a state where we will soon have no universities thanks to Governor Jatāsura Jindal and get yourself a copy. Even if you don’t think of yourself as a reader of poetry, I think you’re going to enjoy the company of New Orleans’ finest poet of the 20th century.

Reality Hunger A Manifesto by David Shields is a collection of short pieces, some his own and some from others (none are cited in-line but only in an appendix and only at the insistence of his publisher) on the subject of truth, memory and literature, particularly creative non-fiction. CNF is a genre I fell into quite by accident when I started the Wet Bank Guide blog after Hurricane Katrina and the Federal Flood but it best describes what my prose writing has evolved into over the last five years. Ordered roughly alphabetically by subject, the author starts off with: “My aim is to write the ars poetica for a burgeoning group of interrelated (but connected) artists in a multitude of forms and media (lyric essay, prose poem collage novel, visual art, film, television, radio, performance art, rap stand-up comedy, graffiti) who are breaking larger and larger chunks of “reality” into their work.” In 72, an un-cited John D’Agata asks: “The lyric essay asks what happens when an essay begins to behave less like an essay and more like a poem. What happens. when an essayist starts imagining things, making things up, filling in the bank spaces, or leaving the blanks blank?” Don’t ask me. I’m a terrible liar.

The Cloud Corporation by Timothy Donnelly is a collection of poems that will someday stand alongside The Wasteland and Howl as the definitive statement of the dislocation of a generation by the unrelenting march of human progress. If you find yourself staring at the generic abstract art in your office building and dreaming it is perhaps a door, a point of exit out of a dehumanizing hive culture, read this book.

This is probably cheating since I’m in it (but make nothing from its sale) is Where We Know: New Orleans as Home by Chin Music Press, which collects some of the city’s best writers (no, I don’t mean me) and carefully selected historical depictions of the city in a volume so beautiful a friend of mine coined a new term for this small volume: an end-table book. It is not only a book everyone who cares about New Orleans should read, but it is a work of art in the form of a book. You really should get a copy.

And I would be remiss if I were not to mention A Howling in the Wires: An Anthology of Writing from Postdiluvian New Orleans. Sam Jasper and I labored long to produce a collection of writing from immediately after The Event, to capture for posterity the best words spoken at readings or posted to the Internet for posterity (a task that has haunted me for years, how not to loose in particular the Katrina-related work produced by bloggers who did not think of themselves as powerful writers. They are. I cried when I got an order for two copies from the Louisiana State Museum).

Much of the rest of what I’ve read this year that you should seek out is not new. Roberto Belano’s work, Richard Katrovas’ Mystic Pig (a book that stands easily in the company of Confederacy of Dunces and the work of Walker Percy, but which dropped out of print long ago but was recently resurrected by a small British publishing company,

And so, on to the listing, starting with one that could end up involving gasoline, light oil, a glass bottle and a Kotex but then I’d have to burn down one of my favorite bookstores just to give Fr. William Maestri an early introduction to his eternal reward so I’ll probably just try to stay the hell away from the first one, even though this is usually a listing of the things I would love to attend if I had world enough and time.

§ On De.c 18 Father William Maestri will be at Maple Street Book Shop from 3:00-5:00 P.M. on Saturday, December 18, 2010, to sign and discuss his book, The Archdiocese of New Orleans and Hurricane Katrina: A Story of Hope in a Time of Destruction. Archbishop Alfred Hughes wrote the foreward. If I threaten to attend this, physically restrain me. If you make it, please spit on this Rasputinesque bastard for me. Or maybe I just need a big blow up of St. Francis Cabrini and to stand outside handing out a broadside of the piece I wrote in 2006. I am beginning to like this idea.

§ The “Writer’s Forum” program on WRBH FM-88.3 will feature an interview with Skip Horack (“Eden Hunter”), Dec. 18; and Bob Carr (“Raising Our Children on Bourbon: A French Quarter Love Story”), with his wife Jan Carr, Dec. 25. All interviews air at 8:30 a.m. Saturday, and are repeated at 8:30 a.m. and 10:30 p.m. the following Sunday.

§ Join Octavia Books for a tasting & signing with Chef John D. Folse and Michaela D. York featuring their three encyclopedic cooking books: THE ENCYCLOPEDIA OF CAJUN & CREOLE CUISINE, HOOKS LIES & ALIBIS, and AFTER THE HUNT Wednesday the 15th at 4 pm. Free Food!

§ 17 Poets! Literary & Performance Series presents an outstanding double-bill featuring JULIAN SEMILIAN and LAURA SEMILIAN, who graced us with a visit earlier this year. Highly recommended. No word yet on who is reading at 17 Poets! Thursday night, but if I get an update before Thursday morning I’ll post it here. Or you can follow them on Facebook to get an update since The Counting House thinks a quick update of the blog at lunch is a horrendous waste of corporate resources. I think its a fair trade for being shackled by a Blackberry day and night but I’m just another soft cog in the great machine.

§ Dec. 19 at the Maple Leaf will be an Open Mike.

One last thought: how many books have you bought as Christmas Presents this year? Really? Shame on you. Visit one of our fine indie bookstores and browse for a while. Go on, if you’re reading this you know you want to and you’ll find something for everyone there.

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Comments»

1. Maud - December 17, 2010

Hello! I am in your city for the first time in a little more than a decade–not counting fly-throughs to see my late grandparents, who used to live outside Biloxi–and am wondering if there’s anything you think I must see before I leave town on Monday. We’ve got the basics covered, including a trip through the Lower Ninth Ward with a local novelist friend, but I love your site and thought you might have an idea I can squeeze in. We are staying, predictably, in the French Quarter.


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