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New Atlantis: Musicians Battle for the Survival of New Orleans Hardcover – June 6, 2011

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Editorial Reviews

Review


"New Atlantis is a fast-moving hybrid of richly detailed journalism
and compelling partisan memoir." -David Fricke, Rolling Stone


"A solid, rewarding book." -Kirkus Reviews


"An all-inclusive and engrossing study of New Orleans music and life in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Highly recommended." -Library Journal


"This intimate portrait of a city that lost so much yet still has so much to offer captures the resiliency of its inhabitants and their stubborn determination to never give up." -Booklist


"Intimate, intelligent and passionate...Swenson's concern for the future of the music culture is as personal as it is journalistic - probably more so - and reading him, you can't help but care, too." -The Times-Picayune


"The eloquent central narrative beautifully evokes New Orleans, alongside interviews with those who, like the Neville Brothers and Big Chief Monk Boudreaux, lived through the deluge, scraped out the sludge and faced down the National Guard." -Financial Times


"An excellent and well-written book...A great companion read if you're a fan of the HBO series, Treme." -The Nation


"Swenson nimbly deals with an increase in violence and turf wars, one of the consequences of the town losing most of its inhabitants, while also telling heartrending stories of the irreplaceable memorabilia that was destroyed...anyone who loves New Orleans will find New Atlantis an engaging read." -The Austin Chronicle


"John Swenson's moving book records the story of a city that acted on singer Randy Newman's famous plea, 'Don't let them wash us away.'" - The Independent


"Excellent...a tribute to the thousands of indefatigable volunteers who pitched in after the flood to gut and salvage ruined homes." -- The Times Literary Supplement


About the Author


John Swenson has been a syndicated columnist for more than 20 years at UPI and Reuters. His account of musicians returning to New Orleans after Katrina, "The Bands Played On," appeared in Da Capo's Best Music Writing 2007; his "Every Accordionist a King" won the 2008 Best Entertainment Feature award from the Press Club of New Orleans. Swenson has been an editor for Crawdaddy, Rolling Stone, Circus, Rock World, Offbeat, and other publications. He is the author of The Rolling Stone Jazz and Blues Album Guide (Random House, 1999); Stevie Wonder (Plexus, 1989); and Bill Haley: The Daddy of Rock and Roll (Stein and Day, 1985).
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1 edition (June 6, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0199754527
  • ISBN-13: 978-0199754526
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 1.1 x 6.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,336,830 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Rita Mayberry VINE VOICE on June 12, 2011
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Everyone who ever visited New Orleans had to come away saying, "There is something about this city..." To some that something is good, to some it is horrific, but all agree that there is definitely something -- in the air, in the water, in the very stones of the streets. That something, to me, flowed on the music that permeates every bar, every sleazy touristy gift shop, and the high tone gourmet restaurants. That lingers in the background along with the faint aroma of overflowing garbage cans at Cafe Du Monde, where one counterbalances bitter coffee with sweet beignets and peruses the Picayune before starting the day, or going home to bed, whatever the case may be. It is there along with the spooky voodoo stories of Marie Laveau and among the crypts in the mausoleums. I could go on, but you surely get my drift. It is the MUSIC! Always the music, and so when Katrina and Rita delivered their one-two punch and the government's neglect refused to help, when anarchy reigned for weeks and mold, mildew and rot for months, one wondered if the music would go be lost forever. It might have been, easily could have been, if not for indomitable spirit of the creators and sustainers of that music. One by one, the musicians drifted back to rebuild a lifestyle that many thought lost forever. And the music, that wonderful music, tells the tale of the horrible loss, the heartbreak, and then the love that is still rebuilding that impossible city.

This book, New Atlantis, by John Swenson tells the story of the music and its role in saving New Orleans from the aftermath of the storm. It is told as only one thoroughly familiar with the cultures and under-cultures of New Orleans can tell it.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Steve Schwartz VINE VOICE on July 25, 2011
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Before Katrina drove me out, I lived in New Orleans for 26 years. For more than half that time, I hated every single day I was there. I came from the Midwest, and the difference proved too much. Actually, the two great things about the city - the food and the music - I took to right away. I was less than thrilled with the corruption, the tolerance of corruption, the ignorance, the parochialism, and the incompetence. However, somewhere around year 15, the city got under my thick hide. By that time, the rest of the country had caught up on the ignorance, parochialism, and corruption fronts.

There's very little difference between Cleveland, Chicago, Detroit, Albany, Atlanta, San Diego, Dallas, Phoenix, and Tacoma, except size and climate. I realized that New Orleans was like nowhere else, and the differences in attitudes and culture were unique and wonderful, beyond the fried chicken and the crawfish étouffée. By the time of Katrina, I blessed my good fortune for having brought me to live there. I don't know whether I can ever explain it. It was a small, compact, enchanted place, divided into at least 20 neighborhoods that I knew of: Treme, Lakeview, Lake Vista, Lower Ninth, Upper Ninth, Bywater, Bucktown, Back o' Town, the Fauburg Marigny, St. John Bayou, Uptown, Garden District, Downtown, CBD, the Quarter, the West Bank (actually south of the city), Arabi, Algiers, Midcity, Gentilly, Bucket of Blood, Congo Square, St. Claude, Esplanade, City Park, Jefferson, Carrollton, down by Law, Lakefront, Batcher, River Road, and so on (is that 20?).

The levee failures during Katrina erased the city down to the original French town. We lost our house. People in our neighborhood died. Beyond these losses, a culture had been almost wiped out.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By R. Weinstock VINE VOICE on August 3, 2011
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Music journalist and scholar John Swenson has authored an important new book about the efforts of New Orleans musicians to help rebuild and restore their city after the "federal flood" that occurred after the levees broke during Hurricane Katrina. After an opening chapter dealing with the Voice of the Wetlands project that Tab Benoit had initiated prior to the Hurricane, and a chapter on the Mardi Gras Indians, Swenson interweaves the rebuilding of the city and music scene and the return of some of the musicians who returned over time.

It isn't an easy recovery. For some who came back, there were others who never would, or would pass away not long after returning. And the early returnees came to a city occupied by the National Guard and terrible street violence with musicians and tourists not being safe from gang related violence. But there are James and Troy (Trombone Shorty) Andrews returning to New Orleans 17 days after Katrina to play at Jackson Square at ceremonies associated with the President's speech and having to deal with what they saw.

Musicians slowly came back and started playing but as Swenson observes they did more than simply make music. Craig Klein of Bonerama started the Arabi Wrecking Crew to help gut ruined houses and then partnered with a group building a musicians community. And then there is music such as that by harmonica player Andy Forest with a recording "Real Story," while Coco Robichaux started playing at Molly's when the lights went back on there, and a group including Walter 'Wolfman' Washington played a concert at the Maple Leaf that the National Guard closed down at 8:00PM after curfew, and James Andrews playing a concert at the Ogden Museum, resuming its concert series that Katrina had interrupted.
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