cover image Unfathomable City: A New Orleans Atlas

Unfathomable City: A New Orleans Atlas

Rebecca Solnit and Rebecca Snedeker. Univ. of California, $29.95 (166p) ISBN 978-0-520-27404-4

Following the same form as the groundbreaking Infinite City: A San Francisco Atlas, Solnit (Savage Dreams) enlists the help of filmmaker and native New Orleanian Snedeker to create this vivid portrait of one of America's most culturally rich city. More than an atlas or a travel guide, the book provides compendium of perspectives and histories, comprised of 22 short essays and numerous colorful and beautifully illustrated companion maps. Each essay falls on a spectrum between whimsical and dour: from "Salacious and Crustaceous" by Evan Casper-Futterman, which covers the history of the seafood and sex industries of the city, to "When They Set the Sea on Fire," in which Antonia Juhasz revisits the 2010 British Petroleum oil spill and its environmental impact. In "Bodies," Nathaniel Rich, charts the land of the dead through a history of the city's burials. Up until around the mid-19th century, "every time it rained, bodies popped out of the ground" due to low ground and high water table. Culture, history, and current events are rendered in strong prose throughout the collection, especially in the essays penned by Solnit and Snedeker. A captivating read for tourists, Louisiana residents, and just about anyone looking to gain familiarity with United States history, folklore, and myth-culture. (Nov.)