Events this week: Glam, literary New Orleans


Join us for an evening of carnival-inspired fashion and festivities! Hosted within the Presbytere’s Mardi Gras exhibition, this runway show will present works inspired by the lavish costumes and gowns on display, worn by local performers and models. Attendees will get an after-hours view of Grand Illusions: The History and Artistry of Gay Carnival in New Orleans, which highlights the ground-breaking work of local costumers and krewes and provides further inspiration for how carnival attire can influence year-round fashion. This event is made possible through a partnership with Louisiana State Museum, Friends of the Cabildo, and New Orleans Fashion Week, and all proceeds will benefit the museum.

Purchase tickets here


Wednesday (10AM): September 25th
Tickets: $20 Members | $25 General Admission 
Departure Point: 1850 House Museum Store (523 St. Ann St.)

Celebrate the Tennessee Williams Festival with a two-hour French Quarter Literary Tour. The French Quarter and New Orleans served as a muse for some of most important American writers of the 20th century including Tennessee Williams, William Faulkner and Truman Capote. Follow their paths through the French Quarter and see how the city impacted their writing.

Purchase tickets here



bonding versus bridging versus bug off

(I wrote this a few years back and always think of it during event season in New Orleans which is just beginning. If you go to the LPO, or a fundraiser at a private home, look for this behavior yourself to see if I am right.)

In many cases, hanging out in the French Quarter allows you to forge new relationships with people who you do not normally see like people from away, or rich folks, hustlers, delivery guys, strippers, musicians, artists. What is also true is that if you live there you can also engineer it to (purposefully) have little interaction with those unlike you.
I learn this when I go the events for the “haves” in the Quarter. Last night I attended the world premiere for 3 one-act plays of Tennessee Williams. The event was held at Southern Rep at the foot of Canal Street, high above the mean streets.
As I came in, an organizer asked me with a surprised note in their voice, ‘Oh, are you here for the world premiere?”
I answered in the affirmative with a smile that said of course you have to ask. They quickly recovered and all went swimmingly. Well, until I sat next to some people who gave me one of those thin smiles that say, “why, who you?” And then soon enough, they politely got up and  went to stand near other well-dressed people.
Maybe my taffeta rustled too loudly.
It is hopefully clear to you, dear reader that I am never well-dressed.

Don’t get me wrong-it wasn’t a wide empty swath around me, just chatty people known to each other who had little or no interest in actually making eye contact with those unknown.
And yet it was fun to listen and watch and not be “someone” or paired with someone who felt the need to nervously scan the room as they made innocuous talk as they realized they were standing back to back with Peggy Scott Laborde. That matters at TWLF by the way.
And I find some of those “haves” perfectly friendly who have made it to that group for good reason, through accomplishment.

Unfortunately though, they can also be one because they married it or bought it and then they wear it like armor.

In contrast, let’s see what the situation might be if you went to say, John Boutte’s show at dba Saturdays.
-The smiles are freely shared and if a regular has seen you more than once before somewhere it’s likely they will start a conversation to find out about you. Or if they are standing next to you, dancing to “At The Foot Of Canal Street.”  During the break and after the show, the musicians, including John, are hugging people, graciously meeting new converts and hanging about. The only thing off limits at those shows are the chairs that are commandeered as soon as the doors are opened. And the beer is excellent.
Chat or not, shared smiles notwithstanding, the TWLF world premiere food was good; the shrimp were only slightly flavored but the salmon was quite excellent. The champagne wasn’t the worst and they came to give more before we went in. All gratis, of course but you knew that.
“I couldn’t believe my eyes when the taxi stopped here…”
“That one is my most intellectual child…”
“Is this the Village People?” (gay friend joke)
“I did not read the synopsis. I left my glasses in the car. That’s fine.”
“Hello you!” (tone was clearly one of “I have no idea of your name, but let’s kiss and hug in case we are good friends.”)

After the first 2 of the 3 short pieces about people who retreat into illusion when unable to deal with the ugliness of reality, the organizers made an announcement as intermission began that the champagne glasses HAD needed  to go back to the bartenders before the “curtain” had gone up and now those glasses were to be delivered home. With a note in their voice that said, seriously, they may start charging us for the extra time, so PLEASE bring the glasses back out to the bar…
…Finally, I watched the female bar staff person come in and scour the theater as quickly as she could for the orphaned glasses, orphaned by those now standing outside in small, select groups who did not and do not ever hear the call that they should hand their glass back.
Moving fast, you knew when she finished she would go home and get off her feet while we went back to see the last piece about fragile people who talk in poetic sentences.

Lucky people.

Panel on New Orleans book, “Unfathomable City”

Friday panel at Tennessee Williams Festival:
Rebecca Snedecker
Garnette Cadogan
Shirley Thompson
Joshua Jelly-Shapiro

RS: it’s true that all 50 writers/researchers had their own experience about working on the book. Can the panelists describe their own experience?

ST: had little idea of what the final book would be. ..pleasantly surprised when it arrived in the mail…
The book invites readers to follow on their own path.
New Orleans has consciously used its place itself as a way to entice others to it, especially after the Civil War. This book chips away at that tourist narrative…

GC: shape of his essay was meant to resemble the shape of the city…

ST: tried to capture the paradox of diametrically opposed ideas. Sugar as a topic is a delightful treat and a commodity.

JJS: what’s interesting is that maps are stories-even narratives-and stories really contain maps. Combining the two is natural.

GC: an essay is a personal voice, a snapshot and is never really finished. Wanted the essay to contain the same sort of reactions (“write it as it felt”) as there is to the subject matter (bounce): joyful and disdainful at the same time, infectious feeling but also to contain the ambivalence that also exists.
(Tried to not use the word infectious, but ended up with it in there anyway.)
An intensely local subject but international at the same time, just like the city itself.
RS: it was important to remember that visuals and text shouldn’t be redundant, just like in cinema.
GC: there are 2 kinds of writers: those who hand in their work and those who have it pulled from their grasp. This project reduced the anxiety of attempting to contain the multitude-ness of the subject since the maps had their own story. It’s like the person who only listens to reggae music doesn’t know reggae music.
And I remembered New Orleans was here before me and will be here after me.
RS: what’s interesting is that the history of bounce music in New Orleans is partly the history of the projects (aka project music) and therefore is really about pre-K New Orleans. the map is one of those that does not physically exist any longer.
ST: Some maps have collapsed history, sugar for example is both the history and the contemporary story of sugar.
ST: I am usually skeptical of mapping. It’s really an act of conquest. Also because they impose a new set of claims on a place and attempt to define every site. Resistance itself is often about not being mapped, about resisting being named in a colonial way.
I bought (editor) Solnit’s SF map book Infinite City and saw that it showed creative resistance and had deep respect and humility for its subjects.
JJS: I also liked how the footprint of the city varies a good deal in the maps and essays.

200 Years of New Orleans Literature

So looking forward to this book coming out. Partly because it’s sorely needed and partly because the author is my pal and I think I know how much critical thinking and good old-fashioned writing was expended to undoubtedly create a cohesive, yet original overview of the best that New Orleans had offered the world in written form.

The blurb , written by her publisher Bill Lavender:

N.O. Lit: 200 Years of New Orleans Literature, edited by Nancy Dixon– Dr. Dixon taught New Orleans literature for more than a decade at UNO before accepting a professorship at Dillard, and she always wanted a single text that she could assign for that course. Well, she has remedied that situation now and put together the most comprehensive collection of the literature of the city ever. This book will be some 550 densely packed pages of poetry, drama, and prose, beginning with The Heroism of Poucha-Houmma, the 1809 drama of Louisiana life prior to the arrival of the French and Spanish conquerors, going through Walt Whitman, Tennessee Williams, Tom Dent, Truman Capote, and about 40 others, up to the present day, with a general introduction and individual introductions all by Dr. Dixon. It should be out this year.

I hear that some early events will happen this year; best way to know is to check the Lavender Ink site regularly.

Fringes of the festival

Once you buy a panel pass for the TWLF, I understand that you might then feel compelled to squeeze every dime from it, running from one room to the next, checking off workshops, circling possibilities, slowly scanning the merchandise table in a spare moment, sure that the right gift for your literary friends is here. I have been guilty of that. 75 bucks doesn’t come that easily to me and so often I equate value with quantity, like so many Americans. I do, after all , shop at the dollar store.
Luckily, with age comes experience (let’s not talk about the bad eyesight and odd aches- what DID I do to my arm?) and so I have grown more aware of my choices, at least those that are available with a panel pass.
I could sit in the uncomfortable chairs of a ballroom or a museum through the post-breakfast to cocktail hours, hoping that the gentleman behind me would realize that his throat clearing is not discreet at all, but incredibly well-timed to cover the bon mots that most likely were what the rest of the audience was chuckling over when my ambient hearing returned. I could do that and have.
Or, I could pack up when I feel the energy lagging at the 12:10 mark and head for a fortifying gumbo lunch at the most appropriately named restaurant for a Tennessee festival goer (I believe in you. you CAN decipher this) followed by a cheap cocktail from the oddly agreeably afternoon haunt of the Chart Room, ultimately heading to Crescent City Books for an afternoon of lessons.
Once there, you meet Isabel, their traumatized but healing cat and talk of books and John Boutte with local author and bookseller Michael Z.
You head upstairs and immediately find a book that has no reason to be prominently displayed (this visit it was “Farmers Last Frontier: Agriculture 1860-1897, which is an astounding find this month), sit with your discreet, illicit cocktail and thumb through it while viewing books and book lovers, pausing to think of calliopes on steamboats and why people honk their horns so often and how creaking stairs can be both frightening and comforting.

And salute Tennessee and his devotees who bring you to the Quarter this fine day.