Friday, April 14, 2006

New Orleans, Mon Amour: Twenty Years of Writing from the City by Andrei Codrescu

Andrea Codrescu says in New Orleans, Mon Amour that his adopted city is a place of poetry, music, good food, and friendly people. Having said that, he then scares his readers with stories of great heat, large insects, rotting buildings, political corruption, tons of guns, and insanity. Readers of the book are unlikely to ever ride a transcontinental bus again or to ever ask a New Orleans policeman for help. Like many citizens, he welcomes visitors to the city so long as they do not try to Disneyfy it. New Orleans is a city with a rich history and culture, not an object at which to gawk.

Much of the content of New Orleans, Mon Amour was written before Hurricane Katrina, and some of it has been in previous collections. Between a new introduction and recent short pieces at the end of the book are twenty years of his commentaries about the city, which have been heard on NPR's All Things Considered and printed in a variety of literary publications. The essays are often unpredictable, lyrical, and entertaining, and readers learn much about New Orleans away from Bourbon Street. They will always test your vocabulary. Codrescu ends the book with musings on how the rest of the country will benefit from the dispersal of evacuees. Overall, the pieces show many sides of the city.

If you enjoy listening to Codrescu on the radio, you will hear his voice while you read. If you have never heard him, you may be baffled at first by his sharp-tongued style.

Codrescu, Andrei. New Orleans: Mon Amour: Twenty Years of Writing from the City. Chapel Hill: Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, 2006. ISBN 1565125053

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