Reading your way through The Big Easy

The Big Easy. NOLA. Crescent City. New Orleans. The subject of many a writer's fancy, its history told through buckets of spilled ink. One cannot visit the Paris of the South without first wandering through its back pages. Here are some titles to get you started.

Don't be a fool for the Devil, darling

Anne Rice, The famed Queen of Vampire lit (yes, sorry everyone else) is herself a New Orleans native, and her fanged creations lurk moodily in her home city when they’re not swanning around in Europe. For a time, when her books first became popular, her home in the Garden District was its own tourist attraction—something she encouraged with parties and appearances. Though she’s now moved away, there are a number of locations in the books that are based on—or literally are—actual places both the Garden District and the French Quarter, and fans can still take Anne Rice tours through the city and its graveyards. The first book in the Vampire Chronicles series, Interview With the Vampire remains a New Orleans classic.

The right ending is an open door you can't see too far out of

This experimental, fragmented novel tells the fictionalized story of Buddy Bolden, one of the earliest jazz musicians, crowned by some as its inventor, but known by all as a genius of jazz who eventually went mad. Ondaatje patterns Coming Through Slaughter after the music itself, bringing in patterns, rhythms, and a host of elements, from photography to interviews to history to fiction, in order to tell his story.

Stella!

In the iconic Pulitzer Prize-winning book A Streetcar Named Desire—which led in part to the streetcar becoming a national symbol for New Orleans—a young woman, evicted from her home in Mississippi under a number of questionable circumstances, comes to stay with her sister in the French Quarter. She and her sister’s husband, however, clash repeatedly, and things only get worse. Stella! etc. Of particular note are Williams’s detailed and poetic stage directions, including his early description of the French Quarter: “The section is poor but, unlike corresponding sections in other American cities, it has a raffish charm… The sky that shows around the dim white building is a peculiarly tender blue, almost a turquoise, which invests the scene with a kind of lyricism and gracefully attenuates the atmosphere of decay. You can almost feel the warm breath of the brown river beyond the river warehouses with their faint redolences of bananas and coffee… In this part of New Orleans you are practically always just around the corner, or a few doors down the street, from a tinny piano being played with the infatuated fluency of brown fingers.”

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