The neighborhoods of New Orleans have given rise to an extraordinary outpouring of important writing. Over the last century and a half or so, these stories and songs have given the city its singular place in the human imagination. This book leads the reader along five thoroughfares that define different parts of town – Royal, St. Claude, Esplanade, Basin, and St. Charles – to explore how the writers who lived around them have responded in closely related ways to the environments they share. On the outskirts of New Orleans today, the city's precarious relation to its watery surroundings and the vexed legacies of race loom especially large. But the city's literature shows us that these themes have been near to hand for New Orleans writers for several generations, whether reflected through questions of masquerade, dreams of escape, the innocence of children, or the power of money or violence or memory.
T. R. Johnson is a Professor of English and Weiss Presidential Fellow. He has taught at the University of New Orleans, Boston University, and the University of Louisville, and has been teaching at Tulane since 2004.