Posts Tagged ‘Louisiana’

This Pulitzer Prize winning novel is a riot. Unfortunately John Kennedy Toole did not live to see it published or receive the highest honor a writer can be awarded. A Confederacy of Dunces is a mixture of high and low comedy mostly from the viewpoint of a very troubled man in his late twenties (or maybe early thirties). Dunces takes place in New Orleans, both on Bourbon Street and in the residential areas. The protagonist, Ignatius, is an overweight PhD graduate (and virgin) who has no desire to work a real job, has a gastrointestinal valve problem, likes to write,  and has a very peculiar pessimistic world view. Nothing is ever good enough for Ignatius.

Toole is a master of finding and maintaining character voice. He digs into the mind and heart of Ignatius and never misses a beat. The story itself is a selection of adventures and mishaps, but there is a sense that Dunces only gives us a sliver of Ignatius’ life. The novel lacks character growth, there is no epiphany, it begins and ends and the reader is left assured that Ignatius misadventures are far from over. Normally when I read a novel I want some sort of conclusion, I want to see the character experience a change, but Dunces was written so perfectly that I find the ending to be more than satisfactory.

Wikipedia on John Kennedy Toole: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Kennedy_Toole

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Having spent only a few weeks in N’awlins, these stories spoke to me with an unmistakable southern accent. The places feel real for good reason–they clearly resemble their namesakes. But the best thing about these stories is the people, the characters. Horack inflates them with life, and not a life from behind the confines of a white picket fence. Horack’s characters have a raw intensity that will captivate the reader. I had to pace myself to keep from reading the entire selection in one sitting; I wanted to savor these stories. No doubt my eyes will graze these pages again and discover even more than I already have.

These stories are told from spring through summer, fall, and winter. They explore life, youth, love, passion, disappointment, and death. The southern reader will find an alarmingly authentic glimpse into their neighbor’s lives, and the rest of us will get a taste of a world often misunderstood and mislabeled. Skip Horack is a writer who will forever be on my must read list–I look forward to reading many fine stories from him in the future.

Skip Horack’s Website: http://skiphorack.com/home

This is not a book that you pick up if you just want to laugh or find yourself entwined in a intriguing and adventurous plot. But the moment you finish the first paragraph you will wish you had prepared a full afternoon just to devour these true stories of heartbreak, disaster, death, family, friends, depression, and rebirth. You will laugh, and if you don’t cry I’d be surprised.

Chris Rose writes about packing his family and leaving when Katrina became an urgent threat, and he returned to the Big Easy just ten days after the storm. This collection of stories takes the reader through his experiences, not just from his observations of the physical destruction caused by the Thing, but of the emotional journey as well. No doubt you watched the news and saw people being airlifted from rooftops, you formulated your opinions about the people who chose to stay despite the evacuation, and you may have even found a way to help with relief efforts (even if it was only to put a few coins into a collection jar at your local grocery store). The point is, you knew about Katrina and the failure of the levees, but you don’t really know what it was like unless you were here, and this memoir is probably the closest you can get to understanding what it was like to be here during the aftermath.

Rose’s writing is like reading a journal; you read the rawness of his observations, his emotions, and you feel like you’re peeking into something secret, something that you’re not really supposed to see. Yet you keep turning the pages climbing deeper and deeper into a reality that is a very significant part of another person’s life. The paragraphs are short, sometimes only a sentence long, as are the chapters. And while this structure is a little choppy (similar to reading newspaper articles), the thoughts flow, they meld, and they dance around each other with humble ease.

If you want to know more about New Orleans, her people, and their dedication to each other then this is a must read book. Nothing brings people together like a tragedy.