Tuesday, April 8, 2014

On April 18, pizza comes with poetry

Posted By on Tue, Apr 8, 2014 at 3:02 PM


In honor of National Poetry Month, the local literacy and tutoring center Big Class is teaming up with New Orleans pizza joints (namely Pizza Delicious, Mid-City Pizza and all the New Orleans locations of Reginelli's Pizzeria) to publish student work on pizza boxes for delivery and pick up. Students ages 6 to 18 are writing poetry on all topics for the Pizza Poetry Project, and their work will be displayed on the boxes on the evening of April 18. A portion of the proceeds from pizza sold that night will support Big Class' free creative writing programs in New Orleans.

As for what kind of verse to expect with your pizza, Big Class Executive Director Doug Keller says the literacy and tutoring center has been receiving poetry "that ranges from an ode to chocolate by an 8-year-old in the Big Class Open Studio after school program to a poem that explores questions of pedagogy from a 16-year-old."

"The idea," he adds, "is to showcase the diversity of student voices and what poetry is capable of, and getting it to as wide a readership as possible through the magic of pizza!"

That being said, Keller admits that many of the poems do tend to be about pizza, which, let's face it, is an understandable muse if you ask me. Big Class, the educational division of Press Street, has received about 100 poems for the project so far. Its goal is 500, and it's still accepting submissions from young writers on its website.

As if you needed another reason to order pizza on the 18th, here's a great video of two Big Class writers explaining the Pizza Poetry Project.

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Monday, April 7, 2014

Review: New Orleans Jazz by Edward Branley

Posted By on Mon, Apr 7, 2014 at 5:38 PM


In the earliest days, New Orleans jazz was very different than the music and settings we know today. At first, it was played in the raucous saloons of Storyville to a mostly black audience but as time went on it was embraced by the white society of New Orleans and music lovers around the country.

In New Orleans Jazz (Arcadia Publishing, $21.99), which arrives in bookstores today (April 7), New Orleans native Edward J. Branley outlines the transformation of jazz from its early days in the Crescent City to modern time. He does so mostly with short introductions to its six chapters and lots of photographs with long captions.

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Feliciana Parish hosts a Walker Percy Weekend

Posted By on Mon, Apr 7, 2014 at 5:26 PM

A church in St. Francisville, which will host the first ever Walker Percy Weekend June 6-8.
  • Photo courtesy Flickr user Corey Taratuta.
  • A church in St. Francisville, which will host the first ever Walker Percy Weekend June 6-8.

"As a Bolling in Feliciana Parish," says Binx in The Moviegoer, "I became accustomed to sitting on the porch in the dark and talking of the size of universe and the treachery of men; as a Smith on the Gulf Coast I have become accustomed to eating crabs and drinking beer under a hundred and fifty watt bulb — and one is as pleasant a way as the other of passing a summer night."

Walker Percy fans are invited up to Feliciana Parish to talk of the size of the universe and the author himself for the first ever Walker Percy Weekend from June 6 to 8. The festival benefits the Julius Freyhan Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to restoring the historic Freyhan School in St. Francisville for use as a multi-disciplinary arts venue.

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Tuesday, March 11, 2014

A Confederacy of Dunces headed to Broadway?

Posted By on Tue, Mar 11, 2014 at 6:23 PM

John Kennedy Toole
  • From Butterfly in the Typewriter
  • John Kennedy Toole

Variety reports that Jeffrey Hatcher and David Esbjornson are working on a Broadway stage production of John Kennedy Toole's famous novel A Confederacy of Dunces.

Hatcher wrote the book for the 2003 musical Never Gonna Dance and the stage adaptation of Tuesdays with Morrie. According to Variety, there's no timeline set but the producers anticipate readings this spring.

This won't be Ignatius J. Reilly's stage debut, however — John “Spud” McConnell has filled those shoes several times for local productions. There have been several failed attempts to bring the character to the big screen, including John Belushi in a film directed by Harold Ramis. More recently, Zach Galifiankis was rumored to star in an adaptation (though I think John C. Reilly or native Sean Patton would make an excellent Ignatius).

In 2012, Gambit profiled Cory MacLauchlin's biography Butterfly in the Typewriter: The Tragic Life of John Kennedy Toole and the Remarkable Story of A Confederacy of Duncesread it here.

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Monday, March 10, 2014

Po-boys po-boys, read all about 'em

Posted By on Mon, Mar 10, 2014 at 12:33 PM


Beer and po-boys are a matchless combination, and so, it would seem, are books about both.

On Wednesday at 6 p.m. Maple Street Book Shop hosts a book signing replete with local sustenance, both edible and intellectual, with Michael Murphy on hand to sign and discuss Eat Dat, a guide to New Orleans food culture, and Jeremy Labadie and Argyle Wolf-Knapp around to talk about their new book, New Orleans Beer: A Hoppy History of Big Easy Brewing.

The book shop will serve Killer Poboys and beer from local breweries to get the conversation going. The event is free at the shop.

Then, next Tuesday, head to Octavia Books for more local culinary reveling, when Sam Irwin reads and signs Louisiana Crawfish: A Succulent History of the Cajun Crustacean (an awesome subject, a possibly more awesome subtitle) at 6 p.m. There's no boiled crawfish at the event, but it's likely an hour-long conversation about the salty bugs will inspire you to go out and fetch your own.

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Thursday, February 13, 2014

Joel Dinerstein and the legend of "cool"

Posted By on Thu, Feb 13, 2014 at 11:08 AM

  • Photos courtesy of Maple Street Book Shop

Tulane Professor Joel Dinerstein starts every class he teaches on the history of cool with two disclaimers. The first is that he's not cool. The second is that he can't teach his students to be.

"I go by the Woody Allen tenet," he says. "If you can't do, teach. I teach cool, I can't be cool." Cool, he adds, has to be conferred on you by others. "If you think you're cool, then it's almost certain that you're not."

Dinerstein has been studying what makes a person cool since the 90's, and he's the co-curator of a new exhibit on the subject at the National Portrait Gallery that opened last Friday, aptly titled "American Cool." He's also the co-author of a new book by the same name, and will discuss theories of cool and sign books Friday at 6 p.m. at Maple Street Book Shop.

The exhibit and the book feature 100 American icons from Frederick Douglass to Madonna, umbrellaed under a carefully constructed rubric of what makes someone cool. A cool person is a rebel, someone who successfully challenges the status quo to move from threat to mainstream, but the word first entered the American vernacular in 1940, when Lester Young used it to describe a relaxed, calm vibe. "Every person in his generation said Lester Young was the only person who said 'I'm cool,' 'you're cool,'" explains Dinerstein. "Jack Kerouac worshipped Lester Young, and suddenly the word crossed over to the Beats."

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Wednesday, January 8, 2014

The LHC celebrates N.O. Lit

Posted By on Wed, Jan 8, 2014 at 11:36 AM

Next Wednesday, the Louisiana Humanities Center will celebrate Nancy Dixon's new N.O. Lit: 200 Years of New Orleans Literature with a panel discussion featuring two of the book's contributors, Moira Crone and Fatima Shaik, plus New Orleans native and writer C.W. Cannon.

There will also be a reception and book signing. The Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities awarded Dixon a Louisiana Publishing Initiative grant to support the book, which was published by Lavender Ink last month and collects New Orleans literature across genres from the past 200 years. Brian Boyles, Director of Public Relations and Programs at the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities, says the LEH is proud to support the book given its scope and contemporary resonance. "Dr. Dixon's book captures the great breadth of local literary history…showing just how diverse and vibrant the New Orleans tradition remains, and how this place shaped these writers," he said in an email.

The event is at 6 p.m. Jan. 15 at the LHC (938 Lafayette St.). It's free and open to the public.

Monday, January 6, 2014

It's a history lesson on home this month at Reading Between the Wines

Posted By on Mon, Jan 6, 2014 at 4:06 PM


The first of Pearl Wine Co. and Fleur de Lit's Reading Between the Wines literary series of the new year will feature seven local historians talking about New Orleans past and present. The event, Wednesday at Pearl Wine Co., will be split into two panels: New Orleans history, from 6:30 p.m.-7:15 p.m., and New Orleans memories and culture, from 7:30 p.m.-8:15 p.m.

Susan Larson, host of WWNO's The Reading Life, Lawrence Powell, and Emily Clark, both professors at Tulane and Rebecca Snedeker, co-editor of Unfathomable City: A New Orleans Atlas will all be on hand for the first panel. Randy Fertel, author of The Gorilla Man and the Empress of Steak, along with the writers Carolyn Kolb and Lisa Marie Brown, will be discuss the city's collective memory in the second panel.

The event is free and open to the public. Glasses of wine are $5 all night and the pop-up Indochow will be serving up barbecue, Thai and Vietnamese food. Maple Street Book Shop will also be there selling books.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

McKeown's Books and Difficult Music says goodbye

Posted By on Thu, Jan 2, 2014 at 3:27 PM

McKeown's Books and Difficult Music will close its Tchoupitoulas Street store at the end of this month.

Maggie McKeown, who opened the used book shop in 2005, says the business was edging toward a financial cliff. "I think all small businesses have had difficulty staying in business," she said over the phone. "It just feels like things are a little worse now. It's different for a brick and mortar store in the age of online."

Looking back over the past nine years, McKeown says she's most thankful to the people who crossed the shop's threshold every day. "I saw the cream of the crop: people who love to read," she said. "People who love to talk about books. That's what I'll miss. I've always loved books, but I didn't realize before I opened the store how important it is to be able to talk about them with other people."

McKeown's is the second used bookshop to close in the past month, following on the heels of Maple Street Book Shop's used store, which closed mid-December. Still McKeown has faith in the future of bookstores, old and new. "They're going to remain," she said.

Until the end of the month, McKeown's entire inventory will be 50 percent off.

"I have no regrets," she added. "I have enjoyed every minute of it. I want (my customers) to keep buying books and keep supporting local bookstores, and who knows? Maybe I'll come up with some brilliant plan for how to come back one day."

Friday, December 20, 2013

Always Dr. Nut

Posted By on Fri, Dec 20, 2013 at 12:42 PM

Igantius J. Reilly
  • Igantius J. Reilly

Every time Ignatius J. Reilly cracked open a bottle of Dr. Nut in John Kennedy Toole's A Confederacy of Dunces, I found myself longing for a taste the written word was not able to give. I didn't even know what Dr. Nut was; a regional soda long extinct by the time I made it into the world. But something about the descriptions of that cold drink running down the esophagus of Ignatius sparked a curiosity (a slightly repulsive curiosity, but still):

"The Dr. Nuts seemed only as an acid gurgling down into his intestine. He filled with gas, the sealed valve trapping it just as one pinches the mouth of a balloon. Great eructations rose from his throat and bounced upward toward the refuse-laden bowl of the milk glass chandelier. Once a person was asked to step into this brutal century, anything could happen." -Toole

The New Orleans soft drink stopped appearing on shelves when its producer, The World Bottling Co., was busted for not paying its taxes. But Phillip Collier's new book, Making New Orleans, provides some hope for those who want to experience a cooling, gassy sip of New Orleans literature and history in a glass. The book is an homage to the brands that have made New Orleans, past and present, and it includes a history of Dr. Nut in addition to a recipe that might get you close to the original.

"For nostalgic individuals," the book says, "according to, mixing 2 ounces of Dr. Pepper soda with 4 ounces of amaretto almond liqueur will make an 'adult' Dr. Nut beverage that will take your taste buds right back to the soda you grew up with." Though Ignatius, of course, drank his "virgin."

Collier will be signing his new book at noon tomorrow at Octavia Books.

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