Books: Your choice from a bushel of books
Destination: New Orleans
New Orleans , which is more than just Mardi Gras, supports more than a dozen quirky independent bookstores, two major literary festivals, four publishers, a specialty tour of literary sites and a thriving literary colony. You cannot ask for a better destination for a traveling reader. A traveler who reads cannot ask for a better destination.
Kenneth Holditch, called Professor by his friends, knows every café, bar, waiter, and historic plaque in the Quarter. Retired from New Orleans University, Holditch walks through the French Quarter pointing out the nesting places and watering holes of writers who once lived here and talks about the latest crop of literati.
When I went with him, Holditch started his tour with a statue on Canal Street, the commercial avenue that separates the French Quarter from the business district. Not many cities raise statues to imaginary people, particularly a pudgy fellow wearing a hunting cap with earflaps. But a bronze Ignatius Reilly, the outrageous hero of The Confederacy of Dunces, waits under a clock just as he does in the opening scene of the novel. By the time John Kennedy Toole’s book had achieved Pulitzer Prize fame, the author had committed suicide. Holditch says, “I think he captures New Orleans, the accents and the different language patterns—from the Irish Channel to the Faubourg Marigny.”
The seventeen-story Hotel Monteleone, on the National Historic Register, has always served as the hangout for literary figures. The Monteleone family has hosted many writers—Tennessee Williams, Truman Capote, Ernest Hemingway, Eudora Welty and William Faulkner. More recent guests include Winston Grooms, the creator of Forrest Gump, and Pulitzer Prize winner Richard Ford (Independence Day). Many of the authors included the Monteleone in stories, prompting the Friends of Libraries USA to name the hotel a Literary Landmark. That honor has been bestowed on only three other hotels—New York’s Plaza and Algonquin and San Antonio’s Menger Hotel. Monteleone is a good place to stay during Mardi Gras, or any week of the year.
…Tomorrow we will talk more about Faulkner and Williams; and Wednesday turn to the proliferation of modern authors, including Anne Rice and a plethora of mystery writers.
What are your favorite reads for New Orleans? I can never get too much of that wonderful city, so feel free to give me more books to add to the library shelves.
Find more at A Traveler’s Library about New Orleans:
New Orleans as Seen by Faulkner
Photograph credits 1) and 2) Wallace Gobetz, from Flickr under Creative Commons License; 3) courtesy of Monteleone Hotel.
Note: If you are going to New Orleans and would like a literary tour, e-mail me (vmb at atravelerslibrary.com) and I will give you the contact information for the person now leading tours for Dr. Holditch.