The Letter From New Orleans — “pointless, sporadic, and free”— began as a bunch of emails to interested parties, from New Orleans. The book Letters From New Orleans, includes all the Letters, as well as additional material.
Subjects covered in Letters From New Orleans include: Celebratory gunfire, rich people, religion, the riddle of race relations in our time, robots, fine dining, drunkenness, urban decay, debutantes, the nature of identity, Gennifer Flowers, the song “St. James Infirmary,” and mortality.
All author proceeds from Letters from New Orleans will go to
relief organizations such as the Red Cross and others working with victims of Hurricane Katrina, until their situation gets significantly better, or, I suppose, mine gets significantly worse. Update: For the last few years, and into the future, author proceeds (admittedly, modest at this point) now go the Neighborhood Story Project, an excellent New Orleans enterprise you should support.
Visit the “St. James Infirmary” essay’s spinoff web site. (Update: no longer active, but still interesting.)
Learn about the quasi-related MLK Blvd photo/Flickr project.
REVIEWS & INTERVIEWS
These stories now function as 21 silent little jazz funerals: exuberant, celebratory and tragic.
—The New York Times Book Review
To listen to an interview about the book on The Brian Lehrer show, click here.
To read an interview (partly) about the book from Gothamist, click here.
To listen to a podcast (mostly) about the book from the Philadelphia Daily News’s PhillyFeed, click here.
To read an article about the book from Gambit Weekly, click here.
To read an interview about the book from the Savannah Morning News, click here.
To read an interview about the book from Jessica Lee Jernigan’s blog, click here.
To read an interview about the book from Like It Matters, click here.
To read a letter about the Letters from Zeke’s Gallery in Montreal, click here.
The book has a deeply personal way of relating to the reader no matter what Walker is writing about…. A fantastic read … It is more than just a good book. Its insider-outsider perspective and street-level historical explorations make it essential for anyone interested in New Orleans.
“Letters from New Orleans” tells the stories that you’ve never heard before and that you just can’t hear while jaunting through the muggy city during Jazz Fest or Mardis Gras. … Fresh and poignant..”
“Letters From New Orleans” … stands within the most robust tradition of geography-centered writing. It’s a complicated tribute. In its willingness to pursue topics as far-flung as musicology, urban decay and the cultural history of Carnival season, it recalls writers such as V.S. Naipaul, who approach cities and countries with a hungry interest in demolishing false expectations…
— Flak Magazine
In “Letters from New Orleans,” Walker contemplates, almost wistfully, various notions of denial and self-invention and loss — those masks that symbolize the city aren’t lost on him. And his pointed, witty insights about the city won’t be lost on readers.
— The (New Orleans) Times-Picayune
This is not a travel book per se, but rather an outsider’s account of America’s strangest town. … This transplanted New Yorker (via Texas) gives familiar places a new twist, a fresh perspective … . The chapter on R&B singer Ernie K-Doe’s lounge is a masterful little piece of social observation …. . Seeing the city through Rob Walker’s eyes reveals a place at once familiar and yet different.
— Chicago Tribune
Rob Walker has captured so much truth about New Orleans, and so beautifully … This book is casual on its surface but demonstrates a reporter’s eye for detail and background, weaving together interviews, observations and teasingly small bits of personal information.
— Mobile Register
“[When Walker] delves into New Orleans’ culture and character, you’re reminded why the city is such a treasure.”
Walker’s first person vignettes are marvelously crafted and richly conceived. But its Walker’s humor that makes Letters From New Orleans truly unique. … We strongly recommend this enlightening, eccentric, and most importantly highly entertaining book. It has temporarily changed our opinion about memoirs.
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.
— Publisher’s Weekly
Walker focuses primarily on the non-famous people who make the city run, the unmasked faces behind the parades, the debates that rage in restaurants and that spill over onto the op-ed pages. Letters from New Orleans is streetwise, conversational in tone, unimpressed by cant, and willing to grapple with the city’s weird, compelling racial heritage. … He returns New Orleans to the place I’ve actually experienced, the realm of the real.
— Quiet Bubble
Wonderfully written, graceful and simple yet full of insight, presenting the city in a way that’s rich and textured.
— Cynthia Closkey / My Brilliant Mistakes
I’ve read very few essays, articles, books – almost anything – that really captures a city, a town, or a “place” so vividly as does Letters from New Orleans.
— Time Enough at Last
A series of e-mails that turned into a book with soul.
If you have never been there and you want to understand the city, this is a great book to accomplish that goal.
— Baby Got Books
Walker writes with interest and intelligence about the little details of life in *this* New Orleans. … The city he describes is fundamentally the city I know and love..
Walker’s musings reveal him to be an astute observer of human nature, urban renewal (or lack thereof), tradition, music, economics, frivolity, and other sociocultural phenomena. … Letters succeeds as a collage of eloquent impressions of New Orleans and reads like thoughtful dispatches from a learned friend.
Recommended for public libraries.
— Library Journal
This book is far more than a poetic testament to a strange and wonderful town. It’s a story about a city boy who recognizes the need to slow down and observe carefully—a story of a couple who learns to let our word’s odd richness really sink in. I recommend it to anyone who feels life is going by too fast.
— Po Bronson, author of What Should I Do With My Life?
Rob Walker is a wonderful writer with a gentle yet comprehensive inquisitiveness, the rigorous, observant eye of a journalist, and the light, poetic touch of an artist. He has managed to make New Orleans — a city that has been documented and written about for centuries — seem completely fresh and unfamiliar and wholly compelling. Letters From New Orleans is a lovely book, and so much more.
— David Rakoff, author of FRAUD
Rob Walker’s meditation on a three-year sojourn in New Orleans is as wistful as absinthe, as funky as a muffuletta at a joint off Tchoupitoulas.
— Jed Horne, author of Desire Street, a True Story of Death and Deliverance in New Orleans