From Publishers Weekly
In this brief walking tour of New Orleans, Blount (Robert E. Lee; Be Sweet) spins an atmospheric, pleasantly meandering tale about a city he clearly knows and loves. Rather than offer up the standard guidebook-style list of things for tourists to do, Blount divides the book into eight "rambles," because "New Orleans is my favorite place in the world to ramble. Even on those deep-summer days that make a person feel swathed in slowly melting hamfat." Blount's yarns will make readers want to visit the city, soak up the mood and create their own memories. Even something as simple as a rain shower reads like a possible adventure: "It can rain so hard in New Orleans that you expect to see alligators bouncing off the pavement ... Also dramatic in their way are the soft showers of the early evening, sometimes arriving spookily in full sunshine from no clouds at all." Of course, even the most unconventional guide to the Big Easy would be incomplete without a mention of the city's food, and Blount devotes an entire ramble to raw oysters, which he says "give you a coolish inner lining collateral to the sheen that New Orleans humidity gives your skin." Blount's New Orleans isn't sugar-coated; it's at times wistful, melancholy and even dangerous. But all this combines to give the reader the impression that anything can happen in New Orleans, which is precisely the author's point. Those looking for a nontraditional portrait of this unconventional city will be delighted by Blount's colorful, almost tender account.
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Blount, a well-known humorist, commentator, and biographer (Robert E. Lee
2003), contributes to the Crown Journeys series of travelogues an example of the best kind of travel-reading experience: when good writers perambulate through and around places they know and understand, and, in Blount's case, that place is the city of New Orleans. His observations and descriptions of interesting places within the city and his reflections on general and specific attitudes to be found there are both celebratory ("the best town for eating in America") and honest ("the city is hardly a model of racial harmony"). He makes several stops in his guided tour, taking time to ponder such topics as the frightening fact that New Orleans lies below sea level, the constant feel of wetness from the persistent rain and humidity, eating raw oysters as a "rite of passage," and, of course, the superabundance of characters--eccentric individuals who seem drawn to the Crescent City like moths to the flame. Brad HooperCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved