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New Orleans, Mon Amour: Twenty Years of…

New Orleans, Mon Amour: Twenty Years of Writings from the City

by Andrei Codrescu

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"New Orleans is different, I think, if only because the locals have had a long time to elaborate a style of living and a modus viviendi that couldn't be mistaken for anything else. Everybody in New Orleans loves the food, the music, and our sense of time (slow time) that's peculiar to us and to us only. There is a velvety sensuality here at the mouth of the Mississippi that you won't find anywhere else. Tell me what the air feels like 3 a.m. on a Thursday night in late August in Shaker Heights and I bet you won't be able to say because nobody stays up that late. But in New Orleans, I tell you, it's ink and honey passed through silver moonlight. Accuse me of poetry, go ahead. But prove that it isn't so. You can't, because New Orleans is made of a tissue of poetries that wove each other together over time."

From 1985 to 2005 (and then an afterword post-Katrina), Codrescu shares some of his writing from New Orleans. It's beautiful and sometimes gritty, reflecting both the light and dark of the city of dreams. He writes a few times of the parallels between New Orleans and Venice, which I had not previously considered, but having visited both, I get it. Venice had a similar effect on me- like walking into a magical city, out of real life and into a fantasy. Lovely. ( )
  amaryann21 | Aug 13, 2016 |
New Orleans is Catholic, pagan, poor, and Bohemian. The music is the Devil's music and we are a cesspool of sin.

The Crescent City. If you ever visit New Orleans you will never forget the time you spent there. If I had never visited New Orleans prior to reading New Orleans, Mon Amour: Twenty Years of Writings From the City, I would have made my way there as soon as I finished. I'm listening to Second Line music as I type these words.

Codrescu, a Louisiana State University professor, introduced us to the city at ground level. He didn't try to glamorize the city nor did he try to take us on a tour of its most popular places. These essays ranged from the details and familiar faces at the local bar scene to the history of the city's cemeteries and its burying rituals. With each essay, Codrescu takes the reader on a daily walk through the city revealing a hidden treasure each time.

Katrina found us dreaming.

The world watched New Orleans drown when the levees broke. Codrescu put it this way:

We already knew who's going to pay for all this: the poor. They always do. The whole country's garbage flows down the Mississippi to them. Until now, they turned all that waste into song; they took the sins of American unto themselves. But this blues now is just too big

New Orleans is my favorite city to visit in literature. New Orleans, Mon Amour: Twenty Years of Writings From the City reminded me why New Orleans is and always will be my favorite city. ( )
1 vote pinkcrayon99 | Dec 31, 2013 |
I've been a fan of Codrescu for years through his spoken word bits he's done on National Public Radio (NPR). This is a collection of essays that he's written over a twenty year period about his adopted city of New Orleans, and it is a marvelous read. Codrescu's humor and insight are always sharp, and ordering this collection in this way allows the reader to follow his love affair with the city as it evolves from an initial infatuation to a deep and abiding love (the good and the bad), with the dark, unhappy moments that come with the package. Codrescu sees more from a coffee shop window than most of us can see in a year of observing our own neighborhood. Knowing about hurricane Katrina and post-Katrina New Orleans only serves to make many of his early observations even more relevant and powerful. Codrescu's essays reveal an ever-present awareness, likely shared by his neighbors, that the City was living on the edge of disaster.

I normally recommend reading collections like this in bits and pieces, and, certainly, one could do that, but the coherency of this anthology is so striking that I'd suggest taking it all in as you would a memoir or biography - a memoir is what this anthology turns out to be. ( )
1 vote Osbaldistone | Jan 29, 2011 |
In 1947 Louis Armstrong posited the musical question, “Do you know what it means to miss New Orleans?” Sixty years later, this chestnut has taken on a whole new meaning, and (if you have any kind of heart at all) has a tendency to stick in the throat. This collection of mostly short musings in, around, and about the Crescent City finds Transylvanian transplant Andrei Codrescu in his cups and in his element and shows us exactly what it should mean.

You might think that the Deep South would be an odd choice of pot for a former Eastern Bloc no-goodnik to replant himself in, but with further contemplation, it does make sense. First of all, there is the vampire connection, a Bohemian sense of empire gone to dangerous seed, and a certain resigned patience that someone familiar with Soviet-style can-do attitude might recognize and respond to (eventually) in the low-gear stifling heat.

Arriving in town in 1985, Codrescu wasted no time in surrounding himself with like-minded writers, artists, and miscreants which all make for an entertaining read as they play out their fantastical roles on a rotting, vibrantly-colored stage. There is a bracingly abrupt pause between Codrescu’s description of a burgeoning art scene and the arrival of Hurricane Katrina. Most of this book is concerned with the years between 1985 and 2005, but there is an epilogue chillingly entitled, poetry will not end with the world.

“It’s heartbreaking watching my city sink,” Codrescu writes. “New Orleans will be rebuilt, but it will never again be the city I know and love.” After an entire book taken up showing us what we were missing, Codrescu unwittingly showed the world exactly what it should miss. ( )
  railarson | Nov 28, 2010 |
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For two decades NPR commentator Andrei Codrescu has been living in and writing about his adopted city, where, as he puts it, the official language is dreams. How apt that a refugee born in Transylvania found his home in a place where vampires roam the streets and voodoo queens live around the corner; where cemeteries are the most popular picnic spots, the ghosts of poets, prostitutes, and pirates are palpable, and in the French Quarter, no one ever sleeps. Codrescu's essays have been called "satirical gems," "subversive," "sardonic and stunning," "funny," "gonzo," "wittily poignant," and "perverse"here is a writer who perfectly mirrors the wild, voluptuous, bohemian character of New Orleans itself. This retrospective follows him from newcomer to near native: first seduced by the lush banana trees in his backyard and the sensual aroma of coffee at the café down the block, Codrescu soon becomes a Window Gang regular at the infamous bar Molly's on Decatur, does a stint as King of Krewe de Vieux Carré at Mardi Gras, befriends artists, musicians, and eccentrics, and exposes the city's underbelly of corruption, warning presciently about the lack of planning for floods in a city high on its own insouciance. Alas, as we all now know, Paradise is lost. New Orleans, Mon Amour is an epic love song, a clear-eyed elegy, a cultural celebration, and a thank-you note to New Orleans in its Golden Age.… (more)

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