NOLA BOOK AND LITERARY NEWS

from Nathan C. Martin and Friends.

Last spring, Press Street unveiled in a soft opening the new Reading Room 220 on the first floor of our headquarters on St. Claude Avenue. The community space—which hosts events, adult writing workshops, Big Class activities, and more—includes a collection of quality books and periodicals that span subject, format, and genre. Many are from independent publishers and are not readily available in bookstores and libraries around town. As we continue to acquire books and catalog and organize our collection (which will soon be available for your perusal on Goodreads), we will feature some of the noteworthy publications that you can find at the Reading Room 220.

The Perpetual Motion Machine: The Story of an Invention 
by Paul Scheerbart
Wakefield Press

First published in German in 1910 and most recently translated by Wakefield Press, The Perpetual Motion Machine by Paul Scheerbart is a story that reaches into the imaginative and humanistic strains shared by science and literature.  For two and a half years, Scheerbart—a German philosopher, writer, and enthusiast of glass architecture and all things astral—chronicles his manic attempts to transcend the laws of physics and invent, or “discover,” a self-propelled machine that can work indefinitely.

But Scheerbart is a less-than-amateur engineer, and rather than delve too deeply into the mechanical details of the hypothetical machine (though the book includes his various diagrams), he celebrates and laments the potential of his efforts.  As he understands it, if he succeeds, “everything is possible,” yet there remains, “the shadow side of this new epoch.”  The machine may solve issues of energy conservation, but that only frees people to churn up more land for development—he recognizes such wagers are inherent to his project.  In his struggle against the law of the conservation of energy, he affirms that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.

Out of Scheerbart’s obsessive process comes a cosmology of sorts, as he contemplates the end of labor, how to spend his future riches, and the movements of the planets and stars.  Translator Andrew Joron writes an introduction suitable for a man he calls “a perpetual motion machine in his own right,” and renders Scheerbart’s words with the force of his personality.  Early in the book Scheerbart says, “One always forgets so much in the course of a narrative.”  This is to say that all failures do not lack invention.

The Perpetual Motion Machine and other titles from the Imagining Science series were generously donated to the Reading Room 220 by Wakefield Press.

Walker Percy

Loyola’s Walker Percy Center has released its slate of community writing workshops for Fall 2014.  Taught by experienced, published writers, these workshops provide aspiring writers of all skill levels a small, constructive environment to discuss their work and a reason to hurry up and get back on that daily writing regimen.

Instruction will be offered in a range of genres and disciplines, including creative nonfiction, fiction, screenwriting, and poetry.  Classes cost $250 and meet once per week for eight weeks at sites uptown at Loyola, downtown in the Marigny and Bywater, or on the northshore in Covington.

Instructors for this round of workshops include O’Henry Prize winner Alison Alsup and Mary McCarthy Prize for Short Fiction recipient Michael Jeffrey Lee, who will hold his fiction workshop at our very own Reading Room 220, located at Press Street HQ.  Local writers Thomas Andes, Mike Miley, Joseph Bradshaw, Jessica Kinnison, Alison Pelegrin, and David Rodriguez are also featured on the impressive cast of writers teaching this Fall.

The full who, what, and when, as well author bios and information on how to enroll, can be found at the Loyola Writing Institute’s website.  

One Book One N.O.

The 10th annual One Book, One New Orleans event series focusing on adult literacy will launch with a kickoff party from 5:30 – 8 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 11, at the PubliQ House (4528 Freret St.). The party will celebrate the beginning of this year’s “reading season,” during which the entire city is invited to read and discuss a single book—this year it’s Unfathomable City: A New Orleans Atlas, co-edited by Rebecca Solnit and Rebecca Snedeker. The party will also celebrate the fact that One Book, One New Orleans—a project of the Young Leadership Council—has been promoting adult literacy through its innovative event series for an entire decade. Food, beverages, entertainment, and bookish merrymaking will take place.

The night will be light and fun, but other events as part of the campaign will take a more serious tone—appropriate for a serious issue. The campaign, which runs through Oct. 31, seeks to facilitate dialog about adult literacy in New Orleans, where more than a quarter of the adult working-age population has substandard literacy skills. Other campaign events relate to prisoner literacy and mental and spiritual health, take place at a variety of locations, and they are all free and open to the public (see full schedule below).

Through One Book, One New Orleans, the Young Leadership Council will donate 400 copies of Unfathomable City to adult learning centers and event attendees. Room 220 hosted a launch party for Unfathomable City and featured a review of it last fall. The book is a collection of essays about New Orleans by different authors and pairs each essay with a map.

For more information and to stay up to date, check out One Book, One New Orleans on Facebook or Twitter.

One Book, One New Orleans 2014 Schedule

September 11
5:30 – 8 p.m.

Kickoff: Unfathomable City
PubliQ House, 4528 Freret St.

September 18
5:30 – 7:30 p.m.

Benefit Party: Louisiana Books 2 Prisoners
Clouet Gardens, 707 Clouet St.

September 25
6 – 8:30 p.m.

Literacy in New Orleans: A Panel Discussion
New Orleans Public Library, Main Branch, 219 Loyola Ave.

October 2
6 – 8:30 p.m.

Come Together: A Community Book Discussion
Dillard University Library Commons

October 16
6 – 8:30 p.m.

Mental and Spiritual Health: A Panel Discussion
Ashe Cultural Arts Center, 1712 O.C. Haley Blvd.

October 23
6 – 8:30 p.m
Mapping Adult Literacy: An Art Exhibit
Pearl Wine Co., 3700 Orleans Ave.

October 30
6 – 9 p.m. 

Wrap Party: Unfathomable City
New Orleans Pharmacy Museum, 514 Chartres St.

rsz_talking_back_to_history_cover

Local publishing outfit extraordinaire The Neighborhood Story Project will celebrate the release of its newest installment, Talking Back to History, with a reception and reading from seven high school contributors at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 10, at the Neighborhood Story Project Offices (2202 Lapeyrouse St.).

Talking Back to History is a collection of essays by students at Lake Area New Tech Early College High School in which the students explore and illuminate stories that may have been overlooked by traditional history. The wide-ranging stories include one writer’s investigation into her great-grandmother’s work as a civil rights activist and another’s reflection on art as self-love. They are connected by the students’ deep engagement with their subjects and commitment to honoring their truths.

Each author contributed two essays to the book. For the first essay, each student interviewed a mentor, family member, or public figure they admire. In preparation for their second essays, students learned about the 1811 slave revolt, visited the Whitney Plantation, and hosted Holocaust survivor Anne Levy and poet and activist Dr. Niyi Osundare.

Talking Back to History is part of an ongoing collaboration between NSP and the New Beginnings Schools Foundation that has created a bookshelf of works by high school students over the past five years. Other titles from the collaboration are 2020: A Look Back (2010); New Orleans in 19 Movements (2011); Bildingsroman from Room 246 (2012); and Straight Outta Swampton (2013).

Other publications by the Neighborhood Story Project include oral histories of the Desire Projects by the Nine Times Social Aid and Pleasure Club and of the New Orleans Race Track by the people who work on its “back side,” among many other outstanding works.

the waves sea monster

The Waves, a new quarterly LGBTQ reading series, will hold its inaugural reading at 7 p.m. on Thursday, August 28, at Antenna Gallery (3718 St. Claude Ave.)  The series will present local and visiting writers alongside emerging and student voices to encompass a multigenerational LGBTQ perspective.

This edition of The Waves will present an all-local cast of writers featuring Chanel Clarke, Tyler Gillespie, Elizabeth Gross, Megan McHugh, Kay Murphy, Brad Richard, Anne Marie Rooney, Elizabeth Lindsey Rogers, Spencer Silverthorne, and Madeleine LeCesne.

The Waves is also accepting submissions from writers interested in reading at future events.  You can find info and submission guidelines at their website.

As always, this Room 220 event is free and open to the public.

About the authors:

Anne Marie Rooney is the author of Spitshine, as well as two chapbooks.

Elizabeth Lindsey Rogers was born in a hailstorm, is the author of the poetry collection Chord Box, and lives on a street named Desire.

Tyler Gillespie is a pale Floridian whose writing has appeared or is forthcoming in Rolling Stone, Salon, NPR, and PANK, among other places.

Madeleine LeCesne is a senior at Lusher School and a writer in the Certificate of Artistry Program, directed by Brad Richard.

Elizabeth Gross throws her poems around and recently some have landed in LEVELER, Painted Bride Quarterly, B O D Y, and the upcoming Queer South anthology from Sibling Rivalry Press.

Spencer Silverthorne is a MFA candidate in poetry at the University of New Orleans.

Chanel Clarke is a graduate of the Michener Center for Writers and has had poems published in Anti-, Flag and Void, Smoking Glue Gun, and Hayden’s Ferry Review.

Brad Richard directs the creative writing program at Lusher Charter School, has published three books and two chapbooks, and is working on, among other things, a manuscript titled Reconstructions.

Megan Mchugh, who recently completed her MFA at UNO, is a garden teacher with the Edible Schoolyard New Orleans, and also grows/designs flowers at the flower farm and design studio, Pistil and Stamen.

Kay Murphy is Professor Emeritus at the University of New Orleans. Her poetry and essays have been published far and wide.

Panelists at the first Rising Tide conference, in 2006, which brought together bloggers and other tech-savvy citizens to discuss the role of the Internet in the rebuilding and future of New Orleans. From left: Dedra Johnson, name forgotten, Greg Peters, Scout Prime, and Ashley Morris (photo by Maitri, via Flickr).
Panelists at the first Rising Tide conference, in 2006, which brought together bloggers and other tech-savvy citizens to discuss the role of the Internet in the rebuilding and future of New Orleans. From left: Dedra Johnson, name forgotten, Greg Peters, Scout Prime, and Ashley Morris (photo by Maitri, via Flickr).

The University of New Orleans Press—in collaboration with editor, journalist, and former New Orleanian Cynthia Joyce—is seeking recommendations for content to include in a new anthology of some of the best Hurrican Katrina-related blogging and online writing.

“If you wrote, or remember reading, blogs/posts that should not be missed—because they crystallized the particular challenges of post-Katrina life, or maybe even inspired action for addressing them—I want to hear from you,” Joyce said.

The anthology will focus on online-only entries that were written between August 2005-August 2007 and revealed a layer of post-Katrina life that wasn’t typically picked up by traditional news outlets.

There will also be a section, “PLEASE FORWARD,” that will contain some of the emails and missives that may not have had a permanent web address but were repeatedly passed around via group email lists in an effort to fill the information void. Joyce is looking for submissions for this section as well.

The book’s official description:

“A collection of writing never before published in print—and in some cases no longer accessible online—the anthology will highlight the unprecedented role blogging played post-Katrina, both as a critical news source in the days and weeks immediately following the storm, and as a catalyst for the region’s recovery in the months and years that followed.”

Email submissions, suggestions, and/or questions to cjoyce@olemiss.edu.

Last spring, Press Street unveiled in a soft opening the new Reading Room 220 on the first floor of our headquarters on St. Claude Avenue. The community space—which hosts events, adult writing workshops, Big Class activities, and more—includes a collection of quality books and periodicals that span subject, format, and genre. Many are from independent publishers and are not readily available in bookstores and libraries around town. As we continue to acquire books and catalog and organize our collection (which will soon be available for your perusal on Goodreads), we will feature some of the noteworthy publications that you can find at the Reading Room 220.

Motorman
by David Ohle
Calamari Press

Like Moldenke, the protagonist of this idiosyncratic book that begins and ends with the refrain that he will ‘remain’, Motorman has shown its own determination to endure.  Written by New Orleans native David Ohle for his master’s thesis at the University of Kansas, Motorman was first published by Knopf in 1972 and championed by no less than literary tastemaker Gordon Lish, but was out print a few years after publication.  While Ohle published stories infrequently in various periodicals for 30-odd years, Motorman acquired a sort of mythological aura thanks to its scarcity and eccentricity on one hand, and on the other to the persistence and photo-copying acumen of a growing cult following.  Motorman was finally republished, with a keen introduction by Ben Marcus, in 2004 by 3rd Bed, and again in 2008 by Calimari Press.  A host of other Moldenke and non-Moldenke books by Ohle have since been published or are forthcoming, including The Old Reactor due out in September, which was excerpted by the New Orleans Review in 2012.

Motorman reads like an absurdist take on the journey narrative, as the singularly named Moldenke sets out on a trip that is part quest, part escape, and part picaresque.  Prompted by the vaguely menacing threats from the all-powerful, all-present Bunce, who torments Moldenke by messing with his utilities, putting him through endless dead-end phone calls filled with arcane instructions, and trailing him with human-ish, goo-filled functionaries called jellyheads, Moldenke seeks (maybe) friendly company, love (sort of), and (possibly) something resembling peace of mind.  As Moldenke travels a ruined, dystopian landscape characterized by government moons, nonsensical weather, and ‘mock’ wars where soldiers volunteer their injuries, the contrast of Moldenke’s mundane struggles and the setting’s grotesqueness energizes the narrative.  Like most books that take place in futuristic settings, it’s the recognizable echoes of the present that lend potency, here cast by Ohle, to great effect, with more deadpan menace than flash-bang spectacle.  It is never clear whether the absurdity tinges this world harmless or harrowing, and it is this tension that makes Ohle’s vision truly unsettling.  What the story of Moldenke offers is not a way to transcend and make sense of an absurd, hostile world, but rather how to live in it, and ultimately, remain.

Motorman was generously donated to the Reading Room 220 by Calamari Press.

MAKING_NOLA_cover

By Cate Czarnecki

There are lots of things to discover within the glossy pages of Phillip Collier’s newest book, Making New Orleans: Products Past and Present, many of which have already left an indelible impression on New Orleanians. The beautifully crafted oversized book is chock full of photos and advertisements of companies both active and extinct. While the collection is filled with history, Collier is by trade a graphic designer and not full-time historian. The book reflects his innate understanding of visual design and layout, and he leaves a lot of the storytelling to the experts. The book is divided into two major sections: past and present. From there, chapters are arranged based on the product types ranging from Coffee and Chicory to Rockets and Ships. Each chapter begins with an informative essay by a notable expert. Bill Rau, of M.S. Rau antiques, lends his knowledge to that particular area, and other contributors include Arthur Smith (of the Louisiana State Museum), Peter A. Mayer, Errol Laborde and Clancy DuBos.

The New Orleanian was a New Yorker-esque magazine published in the 1930s.

Many of the writers address the ritual-based relationship between New Orleans consumers and local products: the pairing of a po-boy with an ice-cold Barqs root beer; chicory-laced coffee and the daily paper. It’s natural to sentimentalize what you know, but here the affection for the brands of yesterday comes across as truly genuine and rarely saccharine. Products have a way of unconsciously weaving their way into the fabric of your life (to quote the infamous Cotton slogan).  They inform place and memory, themes which are central to Collier’s work. When the Hubig’s pie factory burned down in 2012, Collier was still doing research on the book which would become Making New Orleans. That day, he went out and bought a pie and stuck it in his freezer, knowing that it would play some sort of role in the collection’s future.

Picayune cigarettes, which were manufactured on Magazine Street in the early 1900s, were packed with the same caporal tobacco used in Gauloises cigarettes, widely known as the most delicious cigarettes in the world.              Mmmm…. Gauloises….

Delving into the oddities of the past is one of the pleasures of Making New Orleans. A particular favorite discovery of mine was the American Frog Canning Company in the ‘Dis and Dat’ section, which sought to corner the market on the burgeoning frog industry by selling start-up frog raising kits. “The company claimed to be virtually competition-free and a great market opportunity during the global financial collapse of the Great Depression.” the featured paragraph explains. A enlarged advertisement shows a happy couple effortlessly planting their frog pond, catching frogs, and (a little too passively, in my opinion) packing live frogs into crates to be shipped back for a profit. “Our lessons will give you complete instructions.” the manual ensures. Other sections, like Press and Print, emphasize the mostly by-gone days of daily print. “During its 300-year history, New Orleans has been home to more than two dozen newspapers printed in 10 different languages – 12 were published at the same time…” Peter A. Mayer explains in the introduction, noting that if not for the Advocate, New Orleans would be the largest city in the country without a daily paper. “From 12 to one to none? Unimaginable!”

The American Frog Canning Company offered all one needed to become an amateur frog canner.

In this sense, Making New Orleans is more of a cultural atlas then anything else, a tribute to the deep ties between local consumers and the products that fill up their lives. There are plenty of companies included that we recognize today – Zatarains, Luzianne Tea, Big Shot soft drinks – and many more that time has mostly forgotten. Towards the end of the book, Collier showcases the next generation of New Orleans products, with pages on Nola Brewing Company, KREWE du Optic sunglasses, and Fleurty Girl. It makes you wonder about what a new incarnation of this book will look like in 100 years – which of today’s local brands will still be around, and which will have faded away over time. One gets the impression from the enormous variety of the items catalogued in Making New Orleans, however, that a century from now New Orleans will still be populated with objects that embody a cultural value to the people who live here and beyond. Or maybe we’ll all be back to raising frogs in our backyards.

alsup

Local author Allison Alsup was among the winners of the 2014 O’Henry Prize, which honored her short story “Old Houses” published in issue 38.1 of the New Orleans Review. Alsup’s story will be included in the anthology The O. Henry Prize Stories 2014, to be released in September by Random House.

The annual O’Henry anthology intends to collect the best short fiction published in literary journals around the world. Alsup will appear in this year’s installment alongside authors such as National Book Award-winner Louise Erdrich. Other stories in the anthology were initially published in places such as the New YorkerHarvard ReviewTin House, and Granta.

oBak8.jpg

A map of Dublin, drawn by Vladimir Nabokov, based on Ulysses.

New Orleanians will celebrate the (fictional) life and times of James Joyce’s protagonist Leopold Bloom with a communal marathon reading of the famous novel that features Bloom’s antics, Ulysses, at this year’s Bloomsday, sponsored by Crescent City Books, beginning at 6 p.m. on Monday, June 16, at The Irish House (1432 St. Charles Ave.).

Attendees are invited to read (10 min. max) or simply listen to the tale and to partake in the exquisite Irish cuisine prepared for sale by chef Matt Murphy.

This year’s featured celebrity readers include Maurice Carlos Ruffin, Susan Larson, Brian Boyles, Stephen Rea, and Pandora Gastelum.

This event is free, Irish, and open to the public.