(French Quarter, New Orleans)
Our currently featured books, “Hillbilly Drug Baby: The Story,” by Andrea Brunais, “Counting the Waves,” by Sandra Beasley and “Refuge,” by Nanci LaGarenne, can be found by scrolling down below this post, or by clicking the author’s name on our Author’s page.
For James Nolan, the world — and his life — have always been filtered through the multi-faceted lens of New Orleans. He writes:
“In an increasingly homogenized country, much of contemporary American poetry reads as if it were written in Anytown, U.S.A., by a poet born yesterday. True universality is rooted in the particularities of time and place, as Walt Whitman shows us with the celebrations of himself in mid-nineteenth-century Manhattan. Nasty Water will appeal to fellow New Orleanians and those visiting the city, as well as to others interested in the culture of this unique place in the American imagination, with its three-hundred-year-long history of natural disasters, race relations, cuisine, festivals, and an ambivalent relationship with water. ”
Nolan’s “Nasty Water” is one of four books featured this week on Snowflakes in a Blizzard (snowflakesarise.wordpress.com), instead of the usual three. Since we’re taking off the week beginning with Christmas Day (primarily because highlighting books that week wouldn’t be fair to the authors), you can consider the extra book an early Christmas present.
As usual, we’ve got variety. Besides Nolan’s “greatest hits” collection, our latest offerings include two novels (“Mending Dreams,” by Bonnie Schroeder and “Renato the Painter,” by Eugene Mirabelli), and Timothy Kenny’s true tales from his time as a travel writer and reporter.
UPCOMING ON SNOWFLAKES IN A BLIZZARD, DEC. 11-17.
“NASTY WATER,” BY JAMES NOLAN
James Nolan describes this collection of his New Orleans poems as an “autobiography of place,” for which he selected fifty poems written over a span of fifty years focused on his native city. Rarely are readers offered a retrospective of both the lyrics and narratives inspired by a writer’s singular hometown, and this book is a companion volume to Nolan’s award-winning Flight Risk: Memoirs of a New Orleans Bad Boy (University Press of Mississippi, 2017). Some of these poems are arias, such as “Nasty Water,” while others are portraits of a Creole childhood, elegies about family members, jazz riffs on local culture, and commemorations of historic events, from Martin Luther King’s assassination through Hurricane Katrina and the Gulf oil spill.
“FAR COUNTRY: STORIES FROM ABROAD AND OTHER PLACES,” BY TIMOTHY KENNY.
“I have worked in more than 45 countries as a reporter, teacher and journalism consultant,” Tim says. “In the 1990s I frequently reported from Central and Eastern Europe after the fall of the Berlin Wall. Since then I’ve lived in Romania and Kosovo and spent months in Central Asia, including Afghanistan. I’ve also worked a bit in Central America, Israel, the Caucasus and other places, some of which – like Sarajevo and Belfast during their troubles – proved more difficult than others.
“Along the way I’ve interviewed thousands of people and have seen unusual goings on, some of which made their way into the stories in Far Country. The stories in my book are told in ways I was unable to write as a straight news reporter. I was grateful for the chance to do so.”
“RENATO THE PAINTER,” BY EUGENE MIRABELLI.
This is the story of Renato, the painter, as told by himself, focusing on his seventieth year, a time in which he makes a final attempt to achieve the fame that seemed within his grasp many years earlier. He’s a large-hearted man — smart, opinionated, lusty, generous and flawed — with a wife, Alba, who understands him all too well, and their mutual friend Zoe, by whom he had a daughter brought up by Alba, the mother of his two other kids. Now, with age upon him, he spends night and day in his Boston studio, painting against time, negotiating with gallery owners, battered by rejection, grasping at a last chance, missing his best friend Michael Bruno who died a few years ago, painting, painting, painting. But, as usual with Renato, his life is about to get interrupted, this time by a young woman and her little son with no place to go, both of whom will be living in his his studio while his career zigzags.
“MENDING DREAMS,” BY BONNIE SCHROEDER
When Susan Krajewski’s husband Frank leaves her — for another man — she loses more than her marriage. She loses herself. Masking her pain behind a glib, selfish exterior, Susan even makes a good show of staying friends with Frank. Then something happens she can’t control: Frank gets cancer; he’s dying. And she’s losing him again, this time forever. Now Susan has to face her feelings; she has to plunge into the fear and pain of death as she sees Frank out of this life and into the next. In doing that, she discovers she’s not alone. She learns who her true friends are, and who are not. By the end of her journey, when Frank is gone, Susan is left with some valuable allies, genuine sources of support and consolation. And equally important, she rediscovers her own self, with all its flaws and weaknesses—and all its beauty and courage.