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Why New Orleans Matters Paperback – August 19, 2008

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial (August 19, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061131504
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061131509
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 0.6 x 7.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (49 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #120,566 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


“Insightful… a sensory paradise... Why New Orleans Matters is a celebration of the spirit of New Orleans.” (BookInfo.net)

“An enjoyable meander through what used to be called ‘the city that care forgot.’” (Houston Chronicle)

“Powerful, rich with anger, longing, and barely expressible loss.” (Providence Phoenix)

“Hot and real and from the heart… An emotionally wrenching experience—at times hilarious, at times heartbreaking.” (New Orleans Times-Picayune)

“Pensive and elegiac… sharp [and] steely. …A mournful dirge and a vivacious ode to the city.” (Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

“A minor miracle unto itself… a heartfelt, 180-page manifesto… There’s a little something for everyone.” (Gambit Weekly)

Humanities Book of the Year Award, Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities (No Source)

Best Book Award, New Orleans Gulf South Booksellers Association (No Source)

PRAISE FOR MY COLD WAR:“Tom Piazza’s writing pulsates with nervous electrical tension--reveals the emotions that we can’t define.” (Bob Dylan)

About the Author

Tom Piazza is the author of ten books, including the novels City of Refuge, which won the Willie Morris Award, and My Cold War, as well as the book-length essay Why New Orleans Matters. He writes for HBO’s hit drama series Treme and is at work on a new novel. He lives in New Orleans.

More About the Author

Tom Piazza is the author of ten books, the most recent of which is "Devil Sent The Rain: Music and Writing in Desperate America," a collection of essays and journalism on music, literature and politics.

His other books include the novel "City Of Refuge," which won the Willie Morris Award for Southern Fiction, and the post-Katrina classic "Why New Orleans Matters." His novel "My Cold War" won the Faulkner Society Award for the Novel, and his short-story collection "Blues and Trouble," won the James Michener Award for Fiction. He is currently a writer for the HBO series "Treme" and is at work on a new novel.

No less a literary critic than Bob Dylan has said, "Tom Piazza's writing pulsates with nervous electrical tension - reveals the emotions that we can't define." A well known writer on American music as well, Tom won a Grammy Award for his album notes to "Martin Scorsese Presents The Blues: A Musical Journey" and is a three-time winner of the ASCAP-Deems Taylor Award for Music Writing. His writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Atlantic, Bookforum, The Oxford American, Columbia Journalism Review, and many other periodicals. He is a graduate of the Iowa Writers' Workshop, and he lives in New Orleans.

Customer Reviews

I have read this twice and carry it with me.
Like the book "One Dead in Attic", the author knows Nola so well that his writing of the city brought tears to my eyes several times while reading.
For the love of music, Tom Piazza first visited New Orleans in 1987.
Gregory Bascom

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

170 of 177 people found the following review helpful By Harry S. Tervalon, Jr. on November 23, 2005
Format: Hardcover
I was born in New Orleans almost six decades ago. I pride myself in having never left the City under threat of a hurricane. And, so, there was no difference with this one the Weather Service named Katrina. A long time ago, I was a police officer and the sense of duty to your City and to your Community stays with you.

And so, I stayed and along with my parents that I took in to my Uptown Apartment, we weathered the storm. It was a tough night but we made it through and on Monday morning felt we were victorious. Even after the levee failed, we remained in the city until Wednesday, August 31, 2005.

The rest is history. I visited the City in September and early October and made my final return in the middle of October to do my part in the rebuilding. This past Saturday (November 19, 2005), I was at the Garden District Book Store to purchase a number of novels by Poppy Z. Brite as gifts to people who assisted me in my travels after Katrina.

I was introduced to Tom Piazza and decided to purchase his novel WHY NEW ORLEANS MATTERS. I am so happy I did. Mr. Piazza is an outsider (a person not born in New Orleans) but this guy sure has it right for his adopted City. He writes about and fully understands New Orleans and the people of New Orleans. And, he does so as if he was born here and spent his whole life walking the streets and enjoying the great experience of living here and at the same time noting the negatives.

Mr. Piazza takes you on a tour of the places the locals hang out. He does it in such a way as to enliven your senses. Whether it is about the architecture, the culinary wizardry of our chefs and cooks, the music, the people, he gets it right.
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53 of 54 people found the following review helpful By Nolagal on December 27, 2005
Format: Hardcover
As a native New Orleanian, I wondered what compelling case Tom Piazza could make to the rest of the nation. I wasn't sure if the book was written as a sort of cathartic love-letter to the city, or as a case for allocation of the funds necessary to right the wrongs that led to the disaster.

This book is more the former than the latter, and it stands on its own as such. It has been my experience that visitors either love or really dislike New Orleans, to be charitable about it. It's the glass-half-full thing. Either you love our slow, beautiful, messy, fun-loving, on-the-surface, play-before-work, family-is-everything city...or you don't. People who value family and culture and a slower, more stop-and-smell-the-roses kind of life, will be enchanted with the city through this book if they've never had the occasion to visit.

People who are all about efficiency, good government, growing economies, antiseptic cleanliness and timeliness won't. That's the bottom line. Either you are a New Orleans kind of person or you aren't.

If there is a point that Piazza manages to drive home, it is how unique our city is, particularly with respect to culture and way of life, and he argues that it merits preservation on those grounds. If you are looking for a balanced treatise examining the pros and cons of the city topographically and scientifically, how the city contributes to the American economy, the reasons for the flooding disaster (and for the record, most New Orleanians feel it was a man-made disaster brought on by Federal engineering errors) -- this book is not it.
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85 of 90 people found the following review helpful By Peter H. Alson on November 28, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Tom Piazza is known for his jazz and music writing, but in fact he is one of the best writers around, period. In "Why New Orleans Matters," he zings one from the heart and hits the bullseye. The book manages to be uplifting, inspiring and heartbreaking all at the same time. For someone who's been to New Orleans several times, I found it both reminded me all over again of why I love the place, while simultaneously illuminating corners of the city and its culture that I didn't know about. And the descriptions of both the author's solo return and a subsequent and devastating trip with his lady to inspect the damage to her house are scalding tour de forces that really make tangible the pain and the loss. More than anything, Piazza's love and passion for the place, the people and the culture comes through--communicating why, as the title says, it matters, and why we must save it. Of course, on an even broader level, I think the fate of New Orleans is emblematic of the battle that is being waged for the soul of the country--as the corporate interests leech what is good and real out of everything, in their singleminded and ultimately short-sighted pursuit of the holy dollar. I think and hope that we can turn the tide, and I think that this book will help in that fight. It makes the stakes clear to anyone who reads it.
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21 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Janice S. Jenevein on February 17, 2006
Format: Hardcover
In the wake of hurricane Katrina New Orleans faces losing a lot that has made this city a great and unique American city. This book hits the high points concernig why New Orleans matters and needs to be salvaged. I have lived here for 27 of my 57 years and frankly don't want to live anywhere else. The city charmrd me with it's culture, history, love of food, festiveness, and most of all just plain uniqueness. It's like no other city on earth, not to say it's perfect, it's not and that only adds to the magnetism. A good read I would reccomend to everyone. Jan Jenevein proud New Orleans area resident.
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