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The Year Before the Flood: A Story of New Orleans Hardcover – September 1, 2009


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 496 pages
  • Publisher: Chicago Review Press; 1 edition (September 1, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1556528248
  • ISBN-13: 978-1556528248
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 6.1 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #965,947 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Musician, musicologist and longtime New York resident, Sublette revisits his Southern roots and recounts a 2004–2005 pre-Katrina research sojourn in New Orleans in this blunt, eloquently humane and musically astute memoir—a worthy companion to his acclaimed The World That Made New Orleans, a music-laden cultural history of the city to 1819. Sublette delves into some quintessential dynamics of modern American popular culture—including racism and poverty as well as restive imagination and invention—through the prism of his childhood in virulently segregated, early rock 'n' rolling Natchitoches, La., and the fraught but idiosyncratic culture he finds in pre-flood New Orleans. If discussions of Elvis, early rock 'n' roll and hip-hop millionaires straight out of New Orleans's projects inevitably rehearse familiar narratives, Sublette carefully marks them out as part of a larger personal and social landscape. Sublette's sensitivity to the precariousness of a system that collapsed completely after he returned to New York is more than mere hindsight; his worldview dovetails movingly with his turbulent and alluring subject and its dogged rebirth. (Sept.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Review

"An intense and thoughtful 'companion volume' to The World that Made New Orleans . . . A powerful, heartfelt and sometimes angry take on a great American city."  —Kirkus Reviews



"Ned Sublette is a literary Spirit Master, and The Year Before the Flood is his most personal and astounding work, full of mad knowledge and unorthodox insights about race, crime, history, politics, music and all the other ingredients that flavor the righteous roux that is New Orleans." —T.J. English, author, Havana Nocturne and Paddy Whacked



"Ned Sublette is the rarest of writers. The Year Before The Flood—his third tour de force work on music, race, history, and conscience—is his most personal and memorable yet."  —Jeff Chang, author, Can't Stop Won't Stop: A History of the Hip-Hop Generation



"Ned Sublette sees the edgy magic of New Orleans with the eyes of both an insider and outsider. From race to music, from Parasol’s bar to the Mardi Gras Indians, he really gets it. His feel for the sources of jazz and funk flavor the book and make it a delight."  —Walter Isaacson, author, Einstein: His Life and Universe



"Sublette is a musical archeologist at heart . . . Part memoir, part history lesson, it's a scrapbook of the bustling port city at its most joyful, boisterous and deadly."  —Los Angeles Times



"Part memoir, part history, it's a profile of the rich New Orleans music culture that Katrina nearly erased."  —The Dallas Morning News


"A musician and musicologist, Sublette writes with passion and precision of New Orleans' music and Mardi Gras, violence and racism, and its unique—and now perhaps permanently damaged—culture."  —St. Petersburg Times



"Sublette's first-person narrative captures the Big Easy before Hurricane Katrina struck in 2005, and subtly hints at the surreal dysfunction that would take place immediately afterward."  —Time Out New York


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Customer Reviews

If you're serious, someday ya just gotta make the trip.
Ken McCarthy
Most of the book seems to be the author displaying his (admittedly vast) knowledge of music.
L. Jaeger
I would recommend it to anyone who is interested in New Orleans and history.
C. Valdez

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

22 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Dennis Doros on September 3, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Ned Sublette went to Tulane in 2004 to do research for his history of the city: THE WORLD THAT MADE NEW ORLEANS. But the gritty, exciting and dangerous year he spent exploring the city's music, neighborhoods and traditions was the last before the devastation that was Hurricane Katrina. The damage caused by the levee breaks and the unconscionable--no, criminal--abandonment of the city's survivors changed this great and vibrant city--perhaps forever. Sublette's book is fierce and angry and very, very personal. I've been a fan of Sublette the musician for decades, but this book was a look into the life and the scholarship of a remarkable writer and person. For Sublette, New Orleans is fascinating on every level--and the levels all coexist. He describes the historical origins of a neighborhood, the musicians, slave owners and slaves who lived there, the current watering holes, the rappers who memorialized it (and their fates) and which second lines that snaked through it, playing jazz. He explores the divided Mardi Gras traditions from the segregationist Comus and Rex to the African-celebrating Zulus and the mysterious and wonderful Indians (who were inspired by Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show!). This is strong and wonderful--a book that takes history, politics and art seriously and personally. I really enjoyed every page and recommend it highly. (Actually this was written by Amy Heller, Dennis's wife and partner in Milestone Films)
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Lissa on September 10, 2009
Format: Hardcover
I read this book during the hottest summer ever recorded down here in Austin, Texas. A little bit every night. I found it most enlightening in matters of historical value: life in Texas and Louisiana in the fifties through to the present, especially concerning race matters. And music! I am a musician, and the chapter "Tell It Like It Is" had me reminding myself to encourage all my musician friends to read this. But most importantly, this book affected my dreams. It was there I visited the streets of New Orleans pre-Katrina, courtesy of Ned Sublette. Dark and exhilarating, vibrant and ethereal. Sublette imparts a considerable love for his subject! And I have a newly acquired desire to revisit New Orleans in the flesh (it's been many years) to participate in her rebirth.--Lissa Hattersley
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Ken McCarthy on December 31, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Going to New Orleans for lovers of American music is like going to Greece for lovers of antiquity. If you're serious, someday ya just gotta make the trip.

The difference is that a surprising number of the "ancient" things past legends like Louis Armstrong and Jelly Roll Morton recalled from the early part of the 20th century are still alive and well in NOLA today: social and pleasure clubs, Second Line parades. Indian tribes, jazz funerals, great musicians seemingly on every block .and what for my money is the best food on the planet.

If you can't get to New Orleans right now, get this book. It's the next best thing to being shown around by a native.

If you love New Orleans, this book will fill you with pride and joy and get you even deeper into the deepest city in America.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By W. Ray Brock on January 1, 2010
Format: Hardcover
I was born in Texas, living in 4 corners of that state. Although technically already an adult before my move, the 15 years I spent living and working in New Orleans from 77 to 92 was when I grew up. I already had Mr. Sublette's two music histories when TYBTF came out. Each of them are deep draughts of history and music insight that I am still exploring and use as reference. TYBTF is a more personal book than those, a memoir of a life through the prism of a unique year. For me it was a page turner, after tasting a few passages, I read it daily, devouring it cover to cover. The author shares his experiences and gained knowledge of New Orleans but first gives us what parts of his life helped prepare him for his experiences there. It speaks to the nature of the city and to the life Sublette has lived that these experiences center on music and the 900-pound gorilla of this country, race. Here I feel is the first book I've read which captures the world that I experienced growing up.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By M. Thakery on December 19, 2009
Format: Hardcover
I was born in New Orleans. Even after I left I would go back and spend summers with my Aunt and Uncle in Houma, spending a great deal of time in the Big Easy. Do not be fooled: This book is not an accounting of what took place before the flood. It is a living, breathing document that holds your soul and refuses to let go until, gasping for air, you curse the time and finally close the cover and turn out the light.

I cannot describe what New Orleans was anywhere near as well as he does, and while that makes me a little sad, wow, this book is just what it needed to be to fill that gap...
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Chrissie on October 18, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The Year Before the Flood offers a different perspective on the city of New Orleans and its people tracing its musical history and that influence on the world and the author.
Having read a number of books on the city, its history and the affects of Katrina, this book was a welcome addition to understanding why New Orleans is New Orleans. It offers insight into issues such as politics and race as well as charting the rich and varied musical influences that make New Orleans such a great city for music today as well as the the cradle of jazz and, as Mr. Sublette convincingly argues, rock n roll.
This book also traces Mr. Sublette's personal journey from a child dazzled by the many musical styles he encountered living in the south, to adulthood as a sucessful musician with an ongoing interest in varied approaches to music
At its heart, this is a love story for New Orleans, a story not without its ups and downs, but all in all, an impassioned account of how place, culture and art are intertwined. And how a city, like a good song, can stay in your head long after its stopped playing.
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