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New Orleans: British Writer Calls it Barely a Place, Barely Real

I find it amazing how one’s attitude can influence what one sees. I was born and raised in New Orleans, have lived and traveled to many places, and love living here still. Never have I seen what this writer describes in her visit here.

We are a vibrant city with a vibrant culture, cuisine, music and architecture. We are one of the few places in America with any kind of culture at all and is one of the most popular tourist destinations with many people falling in love with the place coming back time after time. Obviously their experience of the city was quite different than this writer’s. And gratefully so.

New Orleans: British Writer Calls it Barely a Place, Barely Real

new orleans french quarter

Tourists enjoy horse and buggy in the New Orleans French Quarter. English writer calls this “barely real.”

She states in her post:

The only reality you can find there is from books and films. We did everything. We wandered hotel lobbies, watched the slow destruction of the mind and body through gin and jazz, and sat by the river to listen to the distant sound of trumpets as people paraded through the street followed by a personal marching band. We looked at art while surrounded by men in waistcoats and women who refused to shave their legs. After whirling through the city, dizzy with Bloody Marys, we entered the paranoid casino to assess the repetitive music, the constant neon and the dark faces of weary players. Everyone in this city is a player of some sort. We took on the role of the Europeans, each realizing a small part of home in the cafe culture and quaint streets.

But if the people make the city, then this one stretches far beyond the realms of geography. New Orleans sits as a series of contradictions and chaos, vaguely organized by concrete and tramlines. Even the buildings resemble the jigsaw of people, with piles of rubble and broken roofs standing, quite shamelessly, next to famous 30’s hotels. The poor sit on pavement sides next to the rich who fill their mouths with fresh seafood.

Please. Poor sitting on the pavement while people stand over them stuffing their faces with seafood? Give me a break.

She states that everyone in the city is a “player of some sort.” Really? Does she know me? Does she know my 98 year old mom? Or anyone else in my circle of family and friends?

She calls New Orleans “barely real.” Which begs the question “what exactly is her description of reality, what qualifies for being ‘real’ in her book?”

I’ll admit the article is well-written, she appears to be a clever writer. But very little of what she is saying is actually true, just seems like flights of fancy and being able to revel in cleverly dissing this grand old New Orleans a city that many people love and call home.

Please leave a COMMENT. What do you think? Agree disagree?

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Posted in New Orleans Culture, New Orleans History, New Orleans Life.

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  • Rachel

    Read the blurb at the end — this is clearly a callow young writer who lacks the maturity and finesse to appreciate the character (and characters) of New Orleans, a fine, special place both because of and in spite of its geography and government. (Really, it reads like a private journal entry.)

    She also clearly spent only a weekend in the city, and only in the French Quarter, crossing Canal just long enough to stumble through Harrah’s, which looks like any other casino anywhere. How boring. No streetcar ride or pancakes at the Camellia? Live music at Tipitina’s or Rock’n’Bowl? Not even a cursory cab ride through the Lower 9th? For shame. I am but a (regular) visitor, and I could write 1,000 words on the smells of the city alone. Streetcar brakes! Bourbon Street at dawn! The river on the shore in Black Pearl! And I haven’t even mentioned food yet. 😉

  • Richard Bienvenu

    Totally agree with you. Seems like her experience was centered mostly around Bourbon Street. But even then there are some nice restaurants there and places to see.

    If she would have headed down toward Esplanade or strolled down Royal she would have caught some of the character of the city in the architecture and such. But as I said I think a lot of had to do with wanting to show off her cleverly descriptive and visual writing skills. Too bad she had to dis the place to do it.

  • pete abbotsford

    I don’t think she’s that far off, really. This city IS a series of contradictions and chaos. I’m sorry, but that’s a true statement. I happen to like it that way, as do many people I know. As a refugee of the economic terrorism that is California, I find the things she speaks of comforting, and clearly I’m not alone in feeling that way. I’ve also been here a long time — almost twenty years — and if this British tourist-woman had too, she’d no doubt feel differently. At least, I hope she would. If she didn’t, I’d regard her as just another contradiction in this city which is indeed full of them.



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