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Letters from New Orleans Paperback – June, 2005

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 220 pages
  • Publisher: Garrett County Press (June 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1891053019
  • ISBN-13: 978-1891053016
  • Product Dimensions: 5.9 x 0.5 x 7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,201,878 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

When Rob Walker and his girlfriend relocated to New Orleans in 2000, Walker (a regular contributor to The New York Times Magazine) started filling his friends' email inboxes with tales of adventures from his new home. Those stories--capturing the simple, everyday, and often unbelievable moments that regularly transpired in the Crescent City--are the basis for the fascinating Letters from New Orleans. Here, the author describes the parades and jazz funerals not as a tourist would see them, but from behind the scenes, amidst the personalities. Over the course of 20 or so vignettes, Walker finds himself in dive bars that should probably be condemned; bicycling through an improvised community park that happens to exist directly below a busy freeway overpass; and mulling the consequences of random, celebratory gun firings that appear to be a regular occurrence in New Orleans. Throughout, Walker is the perfect fly on the wall; he's equal parts journalist, anthropologist, and tour guide. He devotes his energy equally to the beautiful, the downtrodden, and the wacky, but these are clearly love letters to the unique people of New Orleans. Walker is, quite simply, infatuated with his adopted city. With the 2005 flooding of Hurricane Katrina happening just months after the publishing of this book, these pieces serve as even more poignant snapshots; some of Walker's favorite landmarks may be gone forever. With that in mind, the author is devoting the proceeds from this wonderful effort to Katrina victims. --Jason Verlinde

From Publishers Weekly

Walker, the New York Times Magazine's "Consumed" columnist, shares episodic vignettes of three years (2000–2003) spent in New Orleans. He takes in the usual (Mardi Gras, Carnival, a funeral, a gospel choir, Gennifer Flowers, Galatoire's, K-Doe) as a resident tourist, but his writer's perspective strays just enough off center to remain interesting. The streetcar named Desire long gone, Walker visits the history and tenants of the Desire projects. He pursues the blues standard "St. James Infirmary" through its recording history and around the world. He dons a skeleton costume and parades with one of the Carnival krewes. Not the meal at Galatoire's but the local uproar about a fired waiter gets his attention. Indeed, the quality that makes Walker's "modest series of stories about a place that means a lot to [him]" rewarding reading is his immersion in the local. Neighborhood bars, regional history, hometown notables and a dash of mayoral politics reign in the recurring presence of New Orleans' dominating event, Mardi Gras. Walker's book, "not a memoir, a history, or an exposé," won't help a tourist get around in New Orleans, but it will help him or her see beyond the tour guide's pointed finger. (July 20)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Customer Reviews

Most readers want to see what a writer they like looks like-- and like Mr. Walker you will.
H. F. Corbin
It is for readers who want to see the city for its more complicated, uglier, stranger, fascinating and consequently more beautiful self.
Itchy Richards
If you've yet to visit New Orleans, the candid "snapshots" of Walker's letters will surely entice.
S. Fishburn

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

22 of 23 people found the following review helpful By H. F. Corbin TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on June 21, 2005
Format: Paperback
Rob Walker's LETTERS FROM NEW ORLEANS is part travelogue, part memoir with a little social commentary thrown in for good measure. According to the introduction, this book grew out of actual letters he began writing to friends after he and a girl friend identified only as "E" moved to New Orleans in early 2000. Four years later the couple left the city "for reasons that remain unclear." Since they at first were not meant for publication, perhaps that is why these meandering letters are so wondrously conversational and totally unself-conscious. To a letter, they are a delight to read and made me want to revisit this most European of U. S. cities.

Mr. Walker covers some of the subjects usuallly associated with New Orleans: Mardi Gras, jazz funerals, fine dining, the French Quarter and the relentless humidity. Although he obviously loves this city, he does not shy away from writing about the blight of public housing, urban decay and the fragile balance of race relations. The book is chock-full of both memorable characters and places. Whether they got that way on their own or were made that way by Mr. Walker's pen, it really doesn't matter. We meet Ernie K-Doe, the R & B singer who gave us the hit "Mother-in-Law," whose funeral Walker writes about. And Galatorie's, the restaurant that fired a popular waiter-- who apparently couldn't keep his hands off women diners-- and so incensed its clientele that the article covering the firing in THE TIMES-PICAYUNE generated more reader comments than any subject since September 11. Don't forget the part-time embalmer at the funeral home Over by Rhodes and fulltime cashier at the grocery store Save-A Center. Or the notorious Gennifer Flowers.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Patti Charron on December 26, 2005
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I've collected dozens of books about New Orleans, all in an attempt to further my understanding of the mysterious love affair so many of us have with the Crescent City.

In "Letters From New Orleans," Walker examines his own love affair by crafting slice-of-life vignettes shot through with the kind of colors and detail that make the reader want to tumble right down the rabbit hole with him.

Walker gets gets off Bourbon Street and gets real. "Letters From New Orleans" is personal and yet has wonderful, broad appeal owing to Walker's skill as a writer and storyteller. One need not have lived there or even visited to enjoy this book, but those who have had the pleasure of New Orleans, will be further delighted (and educated). It left me wanting more. I've read it three times; I'll read it again.

As for books about New Orleans, this little gem is a huge must. It captures the wackiness, the peculiarities, the enchantment and the "je ne sais quoi" that makes this American city unlike all the others. Rob Walker is donating the proceeds to hurricane relief efforts, which makes reading it even sweeter.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Waterline on December 3, 2005
Format: Paperback
It may have taken a hurricane for Rob Walker's "Letters from New Orleans" to get the attention it deserves, but if anything uplifting came out of Katrina, it's this book. New Orleans, as he deftly observes, is a place that tosses tradition up in the air, lets it crash back to earth and institutionalizes the wreckage. Where else could wacky traditions like jazz funerals or house burnings along the levee as a Christmas Eve celebration come from? Walker digs beneath the banality of Mardi Gras, Bourbon Street and Girls Gone Wild to expose the city's heart -- its people, from fringe to establishment, with the fresh eye of a rapt outsider. It's the best book I've read about New Orleans in a long, long time -- and I live here.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Itchy Richards on August 18, 2005
Format: Paperback
There are those kinds of fans of New Orleans (see review below) who lack the ability to see beyond the tourist-ridden cliches and preconceived ideas of stumbles through the French Quarter and the local hangover eats of their frat boy reminiscences. They cannot conceive of New Orleans as anything but a theme park with a 10 song Jazz soundtrack loop, populated by grinning, drunken, performing stereotypes, doing things that you're apt to see in a marketing video for the city. This book is not for them.

There is of course, nothing wrong with sucking crawfish heads or red beans and rice, or all the bars everybody already knows about. It's just that Walker realizes there's nothing new to say about these things, and chooses to look beyond the obvious.

This beautiful, thoughtful collection is produced by a writer with the imagination and intelligence to see past the prepackaged notions of a city that is so much richer, funkier and more interesting than a buggy ride through the French Quarter, funny costumes, and an appreciation for a few quirky local customs we're all familiar with by now.

Walker looks into the crevices, and behind the curtains of the typical tourist facade (sometimes perpetrated and beloved as often by locals as the tour books) to see what we didn't expect, what we haven't already heard a thousand times. New Orleans IS a special place, but one that is filled with real human beings, with lives and relationships that are shaped, complicated and sometimes warped by the realities of a very specific environment.
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More About the Author

Rob Walker contributes to The New York Times Magazine and Design Observer, among others. He is the author of Buying In: The Secret Dialogue Between What We Buy and Who We Are, and Letters from New Orleans.

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