Herren, Greg and Willis, Paul J., editors, “Love, Bourbon Street: Reflections of New Orleans”, Alyson Books, 2006.
Red Beans and Men
“Do you know what it means to miss New Orleans? “ I certainly do. It’s been a little over a year since Katrina brought me to Arkansas but New Orleans is still in my blood. I miss the red beans and rice, I miss the free spirit of the town and I miss Mardi Gras and Southern Decadence. Someone who has lived in New Orleans carries some of the city with them forever. New Orleans is coming back—not like it was before—but it is trying. To help us remember what it was like, Greg Herren and Paul Willis, lovers and authors, have compiled “Love, Bourbon Street and I am so glad they have. I got misty eyed reading it and remembering my haunts. As much as I like Arkansas, “Sidetracks” will never be “The Phoenix”, “Backstreet” will never be “The Bourbon Pub” and “The Factory” will never be “Oz”. At least I have the memories, I am not going back but I want to be reminded every now and then of how it once was.
New Orleans has always been a haven for writers and a great deal of wonderful literature has come from there. We need only remember Tennessee William’s, Truman Capote, Lillian Hellman, Mark Twain and a host of others and we are reminded of the tremendous literary legacy the city has. It has been a haven and an inspiration for writers. A new generation of authors is writing about New Orleans in this anthology. The gay and lesbian writers of the town know it and write about the Big Easy with sincerity and truth. The booze and the parties, the beads and the parades, the laissez faire attitude, the French Quarter and the Bywater are all a part of the literary heritage, The stories and poems here appeal to the heart and the emotions, to the escapees of the storm and to those who returned to pick up the pieces. The one thing that all the entries have in common is a passion for the “city that care forgot” which is now learning how to care. In New Orleans people “do not live to work, they work to live” and this is what you will find here.
Herren and Willis have assembled a veritable collection written by some of the most notable queer authors of the modern age. You will find Patricia Nell Warren (“The Front Runner”, Martin Pousson (“No Place, Louisiana”), J.M. Redmann (“The Intersection of Law and Desire”), Poppy Z. Brite (“Liquor”), the editors themselves, and many many others.
The book is a love song to New Orleans It is amazing to see how after the horrors of Katrina, the people featured here have been able to be so uplifting and positive. The selections are eclectic as is the city of New Orleans and as different as day and night. There is something for everyone and everything for all of us. We, in Arkansas, need remember that New Orleans is also located in the Bible belt but managed to rise above it. Many queers came to New Orleans to escape the conservatism of other parts of the south as New Orleans was always one of the gayest towns around. Aside from giving us great literature, New Orleans has given Americans so much more—food, culture Mardi Gras, jazz and it has given gay people hope—hope that in the conservative south they could be themselves. It is only fitting that the New Orleans that was be immortalized by gay and lesbian authors. Our community has always been an integral part of the city and it is the duty of the gay population to make its voice heard.
This book means so much to me and I am sure you will feel the same. It is a testament to the people of the city who have chosen to rebuild it in the hope that it will once again be a haven for our needs and desires. As I said before, I am not going back to New Orleans; I have decided to stay here in Arkansas and see what can be done here so that we may one day be able to have the kind of atmosphere that New Orleans has. It can be done if we want it to be so. In the meantime, read this wonderful anthology. It is thought provoking, heart warming and emotional—just like the Crescent City herself.