Unfathomable City: A New Orleans Atlas by Rebecca Solnit
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I wrote an earlier review of this book (I contain more multitudes than you can shake a stick at) and have now decided to update it since receiving the actual published book-I used the advanced reader copy for the previous review- after reading more of it in a different location than the last time and viewing all of the maps and all of that done on All Saints Day, no less. Told you; multitudes.
I decided to do it without my cranky insertion of my New Orleans up front and to simply state that it's a well designed, well-edited and at times beautifully written and illustrated homage to our mysterious city.
This book gives credit where credit is due. To the city's geography, to its outlandish robber barons of bananas and oil, to the nameless and named that have brought us and bring us music, food, and public displays and joy and sorrow and pain and punishment. It neatly shows a number of juxtapositions that may be uncomfortable for some to view and others that are certainly unfathomable, but it does show them. There. credit given.
Now, back to me:
If you look through my reviews, you can spot a certain fondness for maps. I love them and love poring over them before, during or in spite of actually traveling to the place depicted.
If you read my reviews, you will no doubt spot a serious fondness for essayists. I admire what seems to me to be honest human bravery in extending a point or a purpose to a new end. Taking a walk with an author is how I visualize an essay, and yes there are times that I turn back before getting to the end, but I still appreciate the offer. So maps and essays seem like two sides of one coin and when put together well can alter or color each other's point and purpose.
So that this is a book of illusory and real maps combined with odd and delightful essays, edited by two sensitive writers is enough for me to tell you.
Let me let the writers and artists tell you themselves in essays and maps such as:
Civil rights and Lemon Ice
Hot and Steamy: Selling Seafood and Selling Sex
Ebb and Flow: Migrations of the Houma, Erosions of the Coast
Juju and Cuckoo: Taking Care of Crazy
Stationary Revelations: Sites of Contemplation and Delight
The first essays introducing this book are alone worth poring over and sharing; how often is that true? That should tell you about the care and thought put into this entire work and offer the best reason to plunk down your money, open it and thumb through while having a Pimm's or a coffee in front of you, tucked away in a shady corner of our shared city. Enjoy it all.
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