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A River and Its City: The Nature of Landscape in New Orleans Hardcover – February 6, 2003


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 296 pages
  • Publisher: University of California Press (February 6, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0520234324
  • ISBN-13: 978-0520234321
  • Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 6.5 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,819,895 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

"New Orleans's Mississippi levee, as Kelman explains in this fascinating study, is more than a pile of dirt. It is the key to unraveling the historical dialectic between a great river and an essentially amphibious city. It is also the monumental space of New Orleans's past, where dark plots and heroic dreams remain forever entangled."

From the Inside Flap

"New Orleans' Mississippi levee, as Kelman explains in this fascinating study, is more than a pile of dirt. It is the key to unraveling the historical dialectic between a great river and an essentially amphibious city. It is also the monumental space of New Orleans' past, where dark plots and heroic dreams remain forever entangled."—Mike Davis, author of Ecology of Fear: Los Angeles and the Imagination of Disaster

"Kelman has written a pioneering environmental history of the evolving relationship between one of the nation's oldest and most exceptional cities, New Orleans, and our greatest river, the Mississippi. For New Orleans, the river offered challenges and opportunities alike, providing the lifeblood of the city's commerce and a signature symbol of its identity even as it also brought floods, disease, and death. It is a fascinating story."—William Cronon, author of Nature's Metropolis: Chicago and the Great West

"Kelman makes elegant sense of a story as tangled as the Louisiana bayous and tells his tale with a verve to rival that of New Orleans itself. A strong addition to American environmental history."—John R. McNeill, author of Something New Under the Sun: An Environmental History of the Twentieth-Century World

More About the Author

Ari Kelman is McCabe Greer Professor of History at Penn State University, where he teaches a wide range of courses, including on the Civil War and Reconstruction, the politics of memory, environmental history, Native American history, World War II, and America in the 1960s. He is the author of A Misplaced Massacre: Struggling Over the Memory of Sand Creek (Harvard University Press, 2013), recipient of the Avery O. Craven Award, the Bancroft Prize, and the Tom Watson Brown Book Award, all in 2014, and A River and Its City: The Nature of Landscape in New Orleans (University of California Press, 2003), which won the Abbott Lowell Cummings Prize in 2004.

Kelman's essays and articles have appeared in Slate, The Christian Science Monitor, The Nation, The Times Literary Supplement, the Journal of Urban History, The Journal of American History, and many others. Kelman has also contributed to outreach endeavors aimed at K-12 educators, and to a variety of public history projects, including documentary films for the History Channel and PBS's American Experience series. He has received numerous grants and fellowships, most notably from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Huntington Library. He is now working on two books, Battle Lines: A Graphic History of the Civil War and For Liberty and Empire: How the Civil War Bled into the Indian Wars.

Customer Reviews

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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on August 4, 2003
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a book by an academic for academics. That being said, this topic ached to be addressed. Kelman has done his homework concerning the first two centuries of New Orleans' relationship with the Mississippi. The third (1918-present) seems to stop with the defeat of the notorious riverfront expressway. The river is likely (according to some scientists) to shift away from New Orleans, leaving the riverfront a muddy trickle. Kelman is silent on this. The degree of pollution and the efforts to clean up the lower part of the river go unsung as well. The last parts of the book have a rushed feeling, as if the expansive early history sapped the author's resources and there was little left worth saying. Lively it's not, but the book is important and a good reference work for further research.
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By James E. Swinnen on February 5, 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The subject matter of this book is inherently interesting to anyone who lives in or loves New Orleans, or who is concerned about our always testy relationship with natural forces. This is really a history of the city looking in from the river, an interesting point of view.

Kelman covers the city's -- and the region's -- relationship with the river thoroughly, although he has a penchant for creating boogeymen called "the elites" when he needs to point fingers. While there probably were strong commercial arguments for many of the decisions made by the city's leaders, Kelman seems to frequently bundle everything up under the cover of the economic self interest of those at the top, wthout considering that genuine, if misinformed or wrong-headed, concern for the welfare of all of the citizens may have been an equally strong motive for the actions taken. The writer also seems to accept, without question, single source accounts that are critical of the city's leaders, as in his discussion of the Yellow Fever epidemic. While these may add color, ultimately many of them are only "one man's opinion" and are not balanced with a countervailing argument.

That said, the book brings to light the relationship of the river and the city that leaves the reader wondering how long this fatal attraction can continue. It is doubtful that the Corps of engineers can continue to build the levees higher. Yet, at the most recent flooding, the river water was barely below the top of the levees at Audubon Park, just downriver from the Carrollton Gauge (the official water level for the city).
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4 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Jason on February 13, 2007
Format: Paperback
There's nothing wrong with this book. It's a good book. But it pales beside a great book, John Barry's "Rising Tide," that covers much of the same material in greater depth, is infinitely better written, and which this book seems to have borrowed from. Kelman does give more of the early history than does Barry, as well as more about such things things as yellow fever. From an acadmeic perspective re: the geography of New Orleans, Richard Campanella's work is better also.
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