Destination: New Orleans
Did you know that the United States organization Friends of Libraries U. S. A., designates Literary Landmarks? So when you travel in the U. S., you can check their site, visit the haunts of writers past and present, and in a few cases, stay at the same hotels. Checking state by state on the Friends of Libraries Site, you can also get some ideas of literature that came from the state you are visiting.
I just returned from New Orleans, where I stayed at my favorite hotel, Hotel Monteleone, conveniently on the edge of the French Quarter, and walking distance to everything (just ask my aching feet). But best of all, when I walked through that glorious lobby with the towering Grandfather Clock, I was walking in the footsteps of Tennessee Williams, Truman Capote, Eudora Welty and other outstanding authors.
You can even stay in a suite named for one of those three authors–although that does not mean they stayed there–it just means that the suite is decorated in a style that presumably would suit the writer. A few books by Truman or Eudora or Tennessee lie on tables for your reading pleasure.
Truman Capote loved the hotel and returned frequently. Once when he was being interviewed on the late night talk show of Johnny Carson, Capote claimed that he was born in the Monteleone. In fact, his mother and father were staying there when she went into labor and was transferred to a nearby hospital. But it made a good story to say he was born in his favorite hotel. And Capote was made of stories.
In a window just inside the Royal Street entrance of the hotel, stacks of books represent authors who have stayed here or mentioned the Monteleone in their works.
Contemporary New Orleans writer Richard Ford has stayed there and mentioned the hotel in his works. The window display includes several books you might read if you are visiting New Orleans: The Sportswriter, Rock Springs, Wildlife, and A Piece of my Heart. Rebecca Wells is represented by Yia Yia Sisterhood and Little Altars Everywhere.
I was visiting the Monteleone in 2003 when they were in the midst of a major renovation. Staff members were very excited because workmen had just discovered a very old newspaper clipping in between walls that indicated that Ernest Hemingway stayed at the Monteleone. One suspects he may have spent a good deal of time in the Carousel Bar.
Hemingway, Williams and Faulkner’s works sit in stacks in the display window, as does Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood and Stories. The Bride of Innisfallen and The Optimist’s Daughter represent Eudora Welty. Sherwood Anderson, who was the dean of a group of then-unknown New Orleans writers back in the early 20th century wrote Certain Things Last, which is on display. More recent works by Stephen Ambrose: Band of Brothers and Winston Groom: Patriotic Fire and The Battle of New Orleans are shelved in the window also.
If you are curious about other hotels in addition to the Hotel Monteleone, the Friends of Libraries have named the Plaza and Algonquin in New York City and the Menger in San Antonio as Historic Landmarks, making Historic Landmark Hotels a very exclusive club.
Now, if you are going to New Orleans, you cannot blame the Hotel Monteleone if you don’t have something to read. Tomorrow I’m going to talk about a new book about New Orleans that is causing a stir. Then we will move on to other place
Photograph by Vera Marie Badertscher. All rights reserved.
Which of these writers would you recommend most? Any that you just can’t stand? Share your thoughts in the comments section.
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Don’t miss our other articles about New Orleans:
New Orleans as Seen by Faulkner