Odd Words December 1, 2011Posted by Mark Folse in books, literature, Memory, New Orleans, NOLA, Odd Words, Poetry, The Narrative, Toulouse Street.
This is the 1,000th post on Toulouse Street — Odd Bits of Life in New Orleans. I did not win at Pick 3 on 999 last night. And so it goes.
If Odd Words seems obsessed with ideas of truth, reality, memory and fiction that is because ToulouseStreet.net is none and all of those things, the items closest to vanity blog posts (oh, isn’t my life interesting?) walking a fine line between fact and fiction, mediated by an idiosyncratic memory and by the motivation to tell a story. It is, as the tag on the most recent posts of that sort is The Narrative. It is not about who I am but someone else, the person described in the Samuel Beckett quote on the right (scroll down a bit). Memory and agenda transform everything, something that came to the fore for me this week.
I had a newspaper assignment, and needed to remember to set aside any agenda (so-called journalistic objectivity) and a clear agenda: do right by Coco, and his second family at the Apple Barrel. It was also a story about memory, about anecdote, about speculation: none of these hard and firm subjects like what happened in Occupy or the Obama White House yesterday. In the course of the story, someone sent me this video of Coco Robicheaux recounting a story from his youth.
Coco was the very model of a character in New Orleans, a beloved eccentric in the last place in America where a person can come and re-invent themselves. You should watch the video to understand this but in brief: he tells a fishing story, what might easily be taken as a fish tale about catching a Louisiana-record jack crevalle he put in the freezer and his plans to mount it. This could easily be taken as a fish story, a tall tale by a man noted for his tall tales.
Until I talked to his cousin, and later his sister. It seems that as a very young boy he had sent off for a pamphlet on taxidermy, and had a bird he was working on but abandoned in the garage. And his sister in fact recalled some fish his father had kept for quite a while. It is certainly easy to imagine a boy living in Slidell with no boat fishing the trestle, which I’m told is a great spot. There were kernels of truth in this story, and whether he Coco set out to tell a fish tale or believed he was recounting facts mediated by memory and time, was perhaps the most interesting thing I learned in the exercise.
The video also led me to this book, which I had not previously seen around town: New Orleans Walls: Still Standing is a collection of double-exposed photographs, and stories celebrating the people of New Orleans, coming from all walks of life, and bound together by a common passion for the city. The book is available at the local indies, and its website is here.
& so to the listings…
& Tonight at the 17 Poets! at the Goldmine Saloon poets Kelly Harris and Andrea Boll will read starting at 7:30 pm. Boll is best known for her chronicle of second line culture The Parade Goes On Without You, and Harris’ poems have appeared in: Say It Loud: Poems for James Brown, Yale University’s Caduceus, PLUCK Magazine, Reverie Journal, Poets for Living Water, and The Southern Women’s Review
& Maple Street Book Shop will expand its indie empire with a new store in the Faubourg St. John. While official details are sketchy, the neighborhood knows it will be on Ponce de Leon, and there is only one commercial building there unoccupied and under renovation so it will be right off Esplanade in the strip of shops anchored by Canseco’s Grocery and Fair Grinds Coffee Shop. The Facebook page promised as Dec. 10th opening, so watch here for more details.& Tonight at 17 Poets at the Goldmine
& Tonight at Garden District books Katherine Soniat will present her new poetry collection, The Swing Girl, which contemplates the present through the fragmented lens of history. She swings the reader out across time, to ancient Greece and China, and into the chaos of contemporary war in Serbia and Iraq. Her poems move between present culture and the ghosts of history, between modern metaphor and the rhetoric of myth.
& Also tonight and again Dec. 8th Poet, humorist and Orleanian to the bone Chris Champaigne and Larry Beron again present their trip to the track Win, Place and Show at The Steak Knife at 8 p.m. Tickets are $15 advance $20 at the door.
& Downtown Friday night at the Love Lost Lounge, the No Love Lost Poetry Reading hosted by Joseph Bienvenu kicks of at 5:30 p.m., just in time for the bar’s Jazz Happy Hour and opening time for the excellent Vietnamese kitchen in the back.
& Later Friday New Orleans premiere spoken word event Acoustic Fridays the Red Star Gallery, 2513 Bayou Road, hosted every week by Charlie V-Uptowns Illest MC. $7 cover, $5 with college ID.
& On Saturday, Jose Torres-Tama, author of New Orleans Free People of Color & Their Legacy: The Artwork of Jose Torres-Tama, will be at Maple Leaf’s Healing Center store on Saturday, December 3, 2011, 3:00-4:30 P.M. Tama was able to produce this book chronicling the exhibit of the same name.Creole historian Keith Weldon Medley contributed the biographical notes and a time line of New Orleans colonial history, both written by Creole historian Keith Weldon Medley.
& Also this Saturday at 12 noon Shaquille “Shaq” O’Neal will appear on Garden District Books to discuss his new memoir Shaq Uncut: My Story. I might need to recount for the Odd Words audience his background: a four-time NBA champion and a three-time NBA Finals MVP. After being an All-American at Louisiana State University, he was the overall number one draft pick in the NBA in 1992. In his 19-year career, Shaq racked up 28,596 career points (including 5,935 free throws!), 13,099 rebounds, 3,026 assists, 2,732 blocks, and 15 All-Star appearances. This is going to be an event as big as the man himself, so I suggest you get there early.
& At 2 pm on Saturday the Poetry Buffet hosted by Gina Ferrara at the Latter Library on St. Charles Ave. features Martha McFerren and Mark Yakich.
& Saturday evening at Garden District Grammy Award-nominated American humorist, writer, comedian, bestselling author, and radio contributor will be on hand at 6 p.m. to read and sign Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk, which features Sedaris’s unique blend of hilarity and heart, this new collection of keen-eyed animal-themed tales is an utter delight. Though the characters may not be human, the situations in these stories bear an uncanny resemblance to the insanity of everyday life. This is a ticketed event, the price of admission a copy of the book, so if you want to meet Sedaris you had best hustle over their today or tomorrow to get your copy before they’re all gone.
& I usually don’t cover children’s book events but this Saturday at Maple Street’s flag ship store on Maple Street (or course) they will feature Jean Cassels on December 3, 2011, 11:30 A.M. to 1:00 P.M. to sign her new book, The Cajun Nutcracker. This tale and music has a special place in my heart, as my daughter danced from her days as a three year old “pink girl” until she abandoned her studies at NOCCA, realizing that if she was not intended to audition for a company or study dance in college, the punishing routine of a pre-professional dance program was too much. I often dreamed when she was young of accompanying her to Moscow where the prima ballerina would be a guest artist of the Ballet Russe, of being patted heartily on the back over too many vodkas and told, “such a fine artist, such a fine dancer” (such are the dreams of daddy’s). I also supported her decision in the end. The industrial sized bottles of Ibuprofin and a freezer full of blue ice packs were too much for a girl who came home exhausted to a pile of Ben Franklin homework. Still, I tear up at the sound of Tchaikovsky’s ballet.
& Also on Saturday at 6 pm The Dirty Coast book release party for “Y’all’s Problem,” and “New Orleans: the Underground Guide,” is at the new Dirty Coast store, 329 Julia St.
& On Monday Crescent City Books will hist its Black Widow Salon #3. Noted photographer Josephine Sacabo will be our guest this coming Monday, December 5th. We will be discussing literature as a key kernel of her work. Readings included of Rilke, Huidobro, Mallarme, Sor Juana, Rulfo, etc. Upstairs at Crescent City Books @ 230 Chartres St. 7-9 p.m. (We will start promptly at 7:15 p.m.) Seating is limited. RSVP’s preferred.
& On Wednesday, Dec. 7 at 5:30 pm The Arts Council, 935 Gravier Street presents The Writing Institute of the Arts Council Group Booksigning featuring a list of local Katrina-themed books and authors including James Nolan’s Higher Ground, Richard Deichmann’s Code Blue, Carolyn Perry’s For Better, For Worse, and Sally Forman’s Eye of the Storm & How They Did It. It does not feature the one, indispensable Katrina book A Howling in the Wires (available at right and at your local indie bookstores) but all of these look interesting. I have just cracked Nolan’s higher ground, a book that will wind up on my shelf next to Confederacy of Dunces.
& Sunday Dec. 4 you have another chance to catch Poet Katharine (Bonnie) Soniat reading from and signing her new book from LSU Press, Swing Girl, at the Maple Leaf Bar reading series at 3 p.m., or whenever the Saint’s crowd in front quiets down enough to hear.
& Every Monday at 9 pm Kate Smash hosts The Writer’s Block, an open air performance by poets and any other performers who care to stop by. They meet on the amphitheater steps across from Jackson Square. No list, not mic, all performers welcome, so if you can juggle the collected works of Shakespeare in small duodecimo editions, do stop by.
& A week from today Maple Street’s uptown store will host several storytellers from Something in the Water on Thursday, December 8, 2011, 6:00 P.M. This book contains twenty stories about Louisiana, capturing the soul of the state. Meet or reconnect with authors James Nolan, Tim Gautreaux, and John Biguenet.
And so, with my return to the role of ink-stained wretch of newspapering, I’ll end this weeks column with a simple: