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4.1 out of 5 stars
My New Orleans, Gone Away
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on July 12, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition
If you're looking for a memoir about Katrina, this is not the best place to look. Despite the connotation the "Gone Away" in the title carries with it, Katrina is only briefly addressed in the epilogue. The second half of the title more likely refers to Wolf, who leaves New Orleans (apparently for good) near the end of the book. What he does write about Katrina he writes well, although he is very right that "[t]he enormity of the destruction and the scale of the tragedy were too vast to be captured by even the most skilled photographer or journalist."

Most of the book takes place in the 40s (the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor when Wolf was 6), 50s, and 60s. Title notwithstanding, only about half the book takes place in New Orleans. We follow Wolf as he wrestles at Exeter (by my math he just missed John Irving there), wrote at Yale (becoming buddies with Calvin Trillan), made an abortive attempt at medical school, and after a sojourn back in New Orleans moves to New York to pursue a PhD in architectural history (he became enough of an authority to hobnob with the Menils in Houston).

I thoroughly enjoyed the above, though, and the New Orleans sections were as rich as the food. Wolf is old enough that people from New Orleans were still going to weekend houses in Pass Christian to escape the danger of yellow fever. Wolf's parents were distant and seemingly enjoyed partying more than parenting. Despite a family local commercial empire, his people were locked out of the city's power structure--Mardi Gras Krewes--because they were Jewish. Acme Oyster, Café du Monde, and Galatoire's (especially Galatoire's) are frequent haunts. He lived in New Orleans when it was more bohemian than tourist trap. He worked as a cotton broker at a time when a third of the nation's cotton production passed through New Orleans. He earned a masters at Tulane in his part time, rediscovering the influences of an obscure French architect on the city.

The heavy tilt toward Wolf's early life almost gives the sense that he ran out of words or time and finished in a slapdash rush. Wooing his wife is glossed over (they met, she moved to New York, and they got married...presumably things happened in between, but we'll never know) and their divorce offhandedly thrown in (continuing a cowardly trend in memoirs). I would like to know what he is doing today--presumably it's not in New Orleans, or he would have had more to say about the modern city and Katrina. Wolf does, however, write gracefully and with obvious affection for his erstwhile home.

Disclosure: I received a complimentary e-copy of My New Orleans, Gone Away through NetGalley.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on July 9, 2013
Format: Hardcover
Just a beautiful evocation of time and place, childhood and adulthood. Regrets? Some. An appreciation of the joys of life. Lots! A wonderful, beautifully-written memoir. Peter M Wolf takes us from New Orleans to New England to Europe and back again. My New Orleans is a peaceful, thoughtful book for noisy times.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on July 14, 2013
Format: Hardcover
My New Orleans, Gone Away by Peter Wolf is a charmer - partly a love song to a city where he grew up as an assimilated Jew in a highly respected family, yet felt the barriers of being "other". This is a thirty year saga, a coming of age story, told with unusual frankness. Wolf reluctantly departs from New Orleans to gradually find his path to success in New York via Exeter, Yale, and Paris. At times the journey is tinged with sadness, yet triumphs in the end, as he discovers his talents, and ultimately pays tribute to his New Orleans roots. The intimate, well paced writing style captures the reader from the beginning, and leaves one wanting more of this multifaceted, gifted man.

Judith Chatfield
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on August 15, 2013
Format: Kindle EditionVerified Purchase
A unique perspective of New Orleans, different from most people who remember growing up in New Orleans, but sincere and beautifully written. It is as much a story of Mr. Wolf, as much, if not more, than New Orleans. There are gaps in the story, both personally and historically, and the reader will come away with many unanswered questions. The vignettes of local restaurants, department stores, and cultural landscapes are rich in small details that could only have been written by someone capable of noticing and remembering the smallest things that are soon forgotten by most. Best of all, Mr. Wolf, as he immodestly describes himself in the book, is simply a great story teller. His fellow Southern writers known to have sojourned in New Orleans would be proud to have him share a table at the Napoleon House Bar. My reaction after finishing the book was a big thank you for both the historical gifts from his family tree and the wonderful memories brought to mind for those of us fortunate enough to have spent time in this wonderful city. Thank goodness it lives again.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on August 6, 2013
Format: Hardcover
When I first saw the book cover and title I figured this was another "how things are different since Katrina" book. If you read the above summary, you'll see that it is not. Rather, it is the memoir of an old man. I made it half-way through before calling it quits. Frankly, if you have no connection with New Orleans, the first half will mean little to you. Wolf included long lists of people he knew and with whom he associated. The names mean something to me; being in the legal business, I'm familiar with many of the old New Orleans names. I know the streets Wolf mentions and the school he attended.

You might also like it if you want to remember your days at Yale, or if you wonder about life at Yale in the 1950's. Wolf tells us in great detail about his dorm room, joining the student newspaper, and joining exclusive clubs.

Peter Wolf was raised as a non-observant reform Jew in suburban New Orleans. The biggest social event his parents hosted every year was a Christmas party--the the rabbi was a regular guest. He talks about his complete lack of religious belief and about how he, as a rich Jewish man, was discriminated against because he was not allowed to join the Carnival Krewes populated by the rich Uptown crowd.

Basically, the book has too much detail about things that are of little interest to me--some would have been interesting but I'd say the book is at least twice as long as it should be and there were a couple of times I think I read basically the same paragraph on different pages.

Still, if you are looking for a picture of a particular time in New Orleans' history as viewed by a wealthy secular Jew who had deep roots in the community at large, this may be just what you are looking for.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on September 5, 2013
Format: Hardcover
Full disclosure: I lived in the French Quarter from 1995 till Katrina. I really like New Orleans. Consequently, I really enjoyed the first part of the book when the author recounts what it was like growing up in New Orleans from the perspective of a Jewish youth. He demonstrates a love for the city and all its quirks while pointing out its history of exclusivity ( which in many places is definitely alive and well still today ). But, when the author departs the city to go to Yale he begins on a strange account of his life with way way too much minutiae that could only be of interest to his family. He comes back to New Orleans and once again my interest picked up. His account of The Acme Oyster House is definitely right on. ( Hmm. I think right now I would I would like to have a dozen and a Dixie" ). However, he then departs New Orleans again and embarks on a account of his life that has way too many "I's" in it. If they give an award for vanity autobiographies Mr. Wolf's book will be a contender. I wanted to like the book more, but his self centered writing did me in. Thus, only three stars. ( Although I will admit to the book causing me to put "New Orleans" on my travel list. )
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on August 17, 2013
Format: Kindle EditionVerified Purchase
The story is easy to read and a beautiful reminder of New Orleans where I spent 5 years. And it is a very nice story about one man's life.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on October 28, 2013
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
I don't think this book will have any interest at all if you're not from New Orleans. It's the boasting and kvetching of an old man who grew up in a prominent, wealthy New Orleans family. He never uses one simple adjective when he can use three florid ones, and the writing is just tiresome.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on July 26, 2013
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
My New Orleans: gone away, by Peter M. Wolf

This is like the well-worn story of an English school boy, who in this case comes from an aristocratic Jewish family in New Orleans. The boy is ignored by his family and sent to Exeter and Yale for finishing. Though introverted and depressed, he is born smart, and he succeeds in many endeavors, often simultaneously. The career problem is how to choose what to do. The personal problem is to find the love and consideration he missed in growing up.

Though ignored by his socialite parents he is adopted by the Jewish Diaspora in New Orleans, who bring him into their tribe and care for him. He sees that he belongs there, though he does not practice the religion, and he regrets his exclusion as a Jew from Christian society.

Inevitably, girlfriends begin to break down his isolation. He becomes too self confident and he proposes that two girlfriends go steady with him on alternate weekends. Both girls lower the boom.

There is an account of the friendship Mr. Wolf developed with Calvin Trillin at Yale University. Trillin fans will not want to miss this.

Ultimately, Wolf throws away all of his prospects in New Orleans to go to New York City for graduate study in Urban Architecture. His work becomes an international success. Even a girlfriend returns from Paris to claim her man - almost.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on September 24, 2014
Format: Hardcover
Any time someone puts themselves in the public eye, I feel for them. They're going to set themselves up for criticism no matter what. I appreciated PMWs obviously fabulous memory, deliberate way of expressing himself, unusual eye for detail and analytical mind. I see that in some of the reviews here he has set himself up for criticism, particularly in his thoughts about his relationship to being Jewish. He surely knew this would happen and is therefore all the more brave for doing so.

A man of advantage, well-rounded education and abilities, and and one of interesting inner contradictions, I really appreciated his awareness of himself in these regards, and the ability to communicate them beautifully against the backdrop of upper class New Orleans of his youth into the arc of his adult life.

I'm from New Orleans, worked in some of the businesses he mentioned and have acquaintances in some of the families involved, as probably do most New Orleanians since the families are prominent in the area. Some of the things he ponders are things I pondered while doing so. I read a library copy; rarely buy books, but liked it so much I'm buying a copy for my aunt.

I am very interested in how we plan and relate to the places we live so I look forward to exploring PMWs other works and career!
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