Monday, April 9, 2007

Moira Crone

Moira Crone lives in New Orleans and is the author of four books of fiction, most recently the novel-in-stories What Gets Into Us.

Her stories have appeared in New Stories From the South on five occasions, and in magazines such as The New Yorker, Mademoiselle, TriQuarterly, Ploughshares, and many others.

Last month I asked her what she was reading. Her reply:
I am reading the first truly comprehensive anthology of New Orleans voices addressing the experience of the storm for individuals and artists, of which I am one. There have been many books of essays about what New Orleans was before the storm, and many journalistic accounts of the devastation and its many political causes and consequences. But this book is something new: a compendium of thoughtful voices (over eighty different ones here, and many photographers.) that speaks to what was lived and what has come after, and what could come after.

The writers and photographers, the poets and essayists, professionals and peace officers, address the emotional and cultural, historical and artistic impact the events have had-both on their personal lives and, so far as they can see, which is pretty far, upon the community and the city as a whole. These materials were gathered in summer of 2006, which was the first time people could pause for breath. The result is a true city of the book, full of long ago and current history, memory, poems and fictions. It is tragic and hilarious, sad and full of hope. I laughed out loud at Richard Katrovas's "transvestite;" I nodded in recognition when Chris Wiltz described how months after the storm, people flocked to see a play based on her book about a great madam. I wept when photographer Harold Baquet described how, as he fled the city, driving through a throng of hungry, thirsty, desperate people, he had failed to recognize his nephew who called out to him weakly on the bridge. His nephew didn't wave -- he told him months later that was too dehydrated and exhausted to raise his hand in the crowd.

There are over fifty poems, a few stories, (full disclosure, one is mine) a wonderful array of essays, and over thirty interviews from people in every walk of life-from young free-lance medics to composers to photographers to police officers, to mystery writers, to jazz musicians, to entrepreneurs of culture.

This bright book of a city, of its lives, has come in the mail from its editor, the incredibly resourceful Charles Henry Rowell, in the guise of Volume 29, No. 4 of Callaloo. Callaloo is generally known as a premier literary journal specializing in African American literature. It is published by Johns Hopkins University Press. This issue is called American Tragedy: New Orleans Underwater. It does not concentrate on any single ethnic group or social group -- it fulfills the editor's stated intention admirably: "To present aspects of U. S. American culture and creativity in their full richness." At over five hundred pages, thick as that dictionary you got for college and couldn't ever throw away, it depicts the devastation and the start of the resurrection of a place -- it's a little like a dictionary, actually, one with a single, but incredibly complex definition: New Orleans, apr├Ęs le deluge. See also: taking stock, starting over, re-creation of.
Visit Moira Crone's website, and read her Beliefnet essay on Hurricane Katrina, being a refugee, and keeping our hearts open to those in need.

--Marshal Zeringue