Saturday, February 18, 2006

Ye Olde New Orleans

I picked up a copy of George Cable's Old Creole Days, the Pelican Pouch paper back edition, when I was in New Orleans not too many months before Hurricane Katrina hit. While I didn't pick it up in the thick of the disaster, I wanted to read it before too long after so I could best connect Cable's 1879 portrayal of life in the Big Easy with my recent experiences there -- and the waves of Katrina.

Cable is a grand old man of Louisiana fiction, and his southern gothic tales of New Orleans are a must read for anyone interested in the history of the city. Blending darkly romantic descriptions of the people and layout of the city's historic sections, Cable's gothic idealism reminds me of H.P. Lovecraft at times (without the horror undertones).

The eight stories collected herein focus their intention on several themes: The passing of old New Orleans, the heroic Jean Lafitte, and the racial tensions surrounding intermarriage. Cable is considered a local colorist rather than a realist (a la William Dean Howells and Henry James in the north), and some period readers thought he belittled his Creole subjects rather than empowered them. An awesome collection of historic fiction.

For pointers to other books about New Orleans, check out my Mardi Gras Books lens. Between Cable and the work of George Tallant, you can't go too far wrong!

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