Please join us for a special evening celebrating the launch of T. R. Johnson's NEW ORLEANS: A Writer's City when he appears in conversation with journalist Gwen Thompkins, followed by a book signing.
The neighborhoods of New Orleans have given rise to an extraordinary outpouring of important writing. Over the last century and a half or so, these stories and songs have given the city its singular place in the human imagination. This book leads the reader along five thoroughfares that define these different parts of town - Royal, St. Claude, Esplanade, Basin and St. Charles - to explore how the writers who have lived around them have responded in closely related ways to the environments they share. On the outskirts of New Orleans today, the city's precarious relation to its watery surroundings and the vexed legacies of race loom especially large. But the city's literature shows us that these themes have been near to hand for New Orleans writers for several generations, whether reflected through questions of masquerade, dreams of escape, the innocence of children, or the power of money or of violence or of memory.
T. R. Johnson has taught at universities in Louisville and Boston and is now a Professor of English and Weiss Presidential Fellow at Tulane University. He has written books on Lacanian psychoanalysis, the teaching of writing, and prose style and is the editor of New Orleans: A Literary History. Since the late 1990s, he has lived in the 9th Ward of New Orleans near the Mississippi River and hosted a contemporary jazz radio program on WWOZ 90.7 FM since 2001. Johnson currently resides is the New Orleans area.
Gwen Thompkins is a New Orleans native, NPR veteran and host of WWNO's Music Inside Out, where she brings to bear the knowledge and experience she amassed as senior editor of NPR's Weekend Edition, an East Africa correspondent, the holder of Nieman and Watson Fellowships, and as a longtime student of music from around the world. She penned the in-depth introduction to the Historic New Orleans Collection's reissued and expanded edition of Danny Barker's A LIFE IN JAZZ which she presented at Octavia Books when the book was released. She is also a former Times-Picayune writer and editor.
"A thoughtful, comprehensive stations-of-the-cross journey through the literary history and traditions of a city that has done more, pound for pound, to create our American culture than any other. If you love New Orleans, you need this compendium in your library. If you don't love New Orleans, there is something wrong with you and this volume is as valuable a medicinal as a Wild Tchoupitoulas album, a Zulu golden coconut or the middle section of the menu at Mosca's." - David Simon, The Wire and Tremé
"Dazzling in depth and breadth, this book sings with the voices of those who have been moved to create art about New Orleans, from Walt Whitman to Zora Neale Hurston to Beyonce to Maurice Carlos Ruffin. An outstanding endeavor, for anyone who loves New Orleans, anyone who loves literature, and of course, for anyone who loves both." - Jesmyn Ward, two-time winner of the National Book Award
"T. R. Johnson has summoned a parade of ghosts from a town that has always been made of memories, dreams, and shadows. They dance through these pages and down these old streets, story by story, generation by generation, far into the night. Johnson makes it joy to follow along." - Rickie Lee Jones, Two-time Grammy Winner
"In this insightful volume, T. R. Johnson analyzes New Orleans writers, past and present, by where they lived-their streets, neighborhoods, and neighbors. What results is a fascinating exploration of the roles played by local inspiration and social propinquity in the creation of literature-and confirmation that New Orleans is, indeed, a world unto itself." - Richard Campanella, two-time winner of the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities Book-of-the-Year-Award