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Odd Words December 30, 2010

Posted by The Typist in Odd Words, Toulouse Street.

Let’s start with this: in a city where public drunkenness is a substantial market segment of our largest industry (the one we like to call beads-and-boobs), there is not much going on of a literary nature in the run up to New Years: that great competition in drunken public self-embarrassment we celebrate here in the City that Care Forgot by firing live ammunition into the air like Pancho Villa’s celebrating army. I once woke up and stepped out onto my porch to discover a slug smashed into the concrete six inches from my chair.

There’s nothing featured at the main bookstores, I haven’t gotten any notice of January events at the Maple Leaf or 17 Poets! or anywhere else for that matter and the plain fact is there is nothing of that sort going on. It is probably the perfect time to hole up and read something. I’ve already listed some books I read this year so I can’t go there. What I’m reading right now is my Christmas present to myself, Barry Hannah’s Long, Last Happy: New and Selected Stories. There is a great line in Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil in which the journalist tries to describe Savannah and it’s denizens: “It’s like Gone with the Wind on mescaline.” I think that comes close to summing up Hannah, who gives us the Faulknerian south advanced a generation or two, twisted through a slightly off-kilter filter that keeps you engaged with the strangest of characters, in stories with the deceptively simple polish, grace and style of a gonzo Chekhov or Cheever. If you’ve just come in from shoveling yourself out from the Great Blizzard of 2010 or whatever they will call it and want to escape that harsh climate, I suggest you slip and slide down to the bookstore and immerse yourself in Hannah’s balmy, barmy South.*

Since I mentioned John Berendt I have to ask: has anyone seen him around town? There was much chatter during the Q-and-A at the Tennessee Williams Festival lecture he gave two years ago, during which he broadly hinted that New Orleans might be his next subject. He does as fine a job at capturing what Walker Percy described as “the savor of the genie-soul of the place which every place has or is not a place.” And I’m glad Hannah put me in mind of that line which lead me back to the post I wrote about his lecture, which I need to print out and nail to the wall as a personal writing challenge I have not managed to step up to in the intervening year-and-a-half. And a comment on that post as I re-read it reminds me I once ordered a copy of Lawrence Durrell’s Spirit of Place from a bookstore that promptly folded, swallowing a half-dozen consignment copies of Carry Me Home that did not turn up when the Maple Leaf bought their inventory, and which I hoped are boxed up with the rest of the Jazz Fest tent stuff. Another book to put on my list but looking at my post-holiday budget, I think I’m going to have to go back to the library first before I plunk down even a few dollars at Alibris.

I’m sorry I didn’t manage to connect with one of my literary blog idols Maud Newton [sigh] who was in town a few weeks ago and had hoped to gather up a table of local writers for a drink or something. How I landed on her list I have no idea but I was entirely flattered even when the plan fell apart, and at least I ended up reading local author Pia Ehrhardt’s Famous Fathers & Other Stories. I had heard her name before once or twice but there are so many writers in this city divided into their own little circles who never meet it’s a damn shame. There is no 92nd Street Y or other venue in New Orleans where a friend my nudge you and say, “pssst, that’s so-and-so. Have you read such-and-such?” and of course you haven’t so at least you read the book or if you have, elbow you way to their general vicinity for a bit of awkward, fawning “loved your book” that might just turn into some sort of connection.

New Orleans by nature is a city as caste-conscious as India, and I think that tends to dilute our potential. Musicians generally don’t divide themselves into little groups here but writers I think DO. If Maud’s abortive cocktail soiree’ achieved nothing else, it is the idea that someone needs to organize some damn thing interesting enough that writers and other bookish people would find it irresistible. (Sorry, the Tennessee Williams festival is not it. Read the blog post. The Festival hold its interim events at a suburban library, for god’s sake, an offense not taken lightly by those who chose to live in the city). I ramble on again (don’t I) but I look forward to a few words from Ms. Newton about New Orleans when she comes back from her long winter’s nap.

And so, before I get lost in my thoughts again, here’s what’s going on this week.

§ [Chirp, chirp, chirp {sound of page turning} chirp, chirp, chirp].

Have a Happy New Year.

* Yes, I do like my comas and semicolons and have no respect for the rules of sentence except sound and sense, but I spend more time than you might imagine arranging those cascading clauses like the parts of a collage. My friend Ray has been reading Cormac McCarthy and trying to work on paring down his writing. In the email where he described that process (discussing the work of another writer) he said “Cormac could have killed two people before that sentence was over.” In the space of some of my sentences Rambo might have reduced entire Asian armies into smoking piles of bodies, but it’s just the way things comes out



1. Marco - December 30, 2010

I like your cascading clauses. They make good reading. No matter what they say about you, you’re doing a good job. I have a copy of Durrell’s “Spirit of Place” that I can send you. Let me know by email.


2. bayoucreole - December 30, 2010

Happy New Year Mark!


mf - December 30, 2010

Thank you dear.


3. sussah - December 30, 2010

Happy New Year to you! I’ve come to like cascading clauses, run-on sentences, and the easy writing on e-mails, blogs and blog comments, it’s a lot more free this way. take care, sp


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