cover image Letters from New Orleans

Letters from New Orleans

Rob Walker, . . Garrett County, $12.95 (220pp) ISBN 978-1-891053-01-6

Walker, the New York Times Magazine 's "Consumed" columnist, shares episodic vignettes of three years (2000–2003) spent in New Orleans. He takes in the usual (Mardi Gras, Carnival, a funeral, a gospel choir, Gennifer Flowers, Galatoire's, K-Doe) as a resident tourist, but his writer's perspective strays just enough off center to remain interesting. The streetcar named Desire long gone, Walker visits the history and tenants of the Desire projects. He pursues the blues standard "St. James Infirmary" through its recording history and around the world. He dons a skeleton costume and parades with one of the Carnival krewes. Not the meal at Galatoire's but the local uproar about a fired waiter gets his attention. Indeed, the quality that makes Walker's "modest series of stories about a place that means a lot to [him]" rewarding reading is his immersion in the local. Neighborhood bars, regional history, hometown notables and a dash of mayoral politics reign in the recurring presence of New Orleans' dominating event, Mardi Gras. Walker's book, "not a memoir, a history, or an exposé," won't help a tourist get around in New Orleans, but it will help him or her see beyond the tour guide's pointed finger. (July 20)