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New Orleans Stories a collection of anonymous tales spanning two decades of the Crescent City

August 9, 2012

People love stories. They love to tell them. They love to hear them. They are what form the roots of the human experience. There are millions of stories to be had. People tell stories around the campfire or around card tables. They sit on the beach and tell stories. They seat on benches in the park and tell them. They tell stories at the gym. They talk on the phone, and tell story after story. They tell about adventures they have been on. They tell tales, some true and some not, about other people. People tell stories about fish they have caught, or the one that got away. They tell stories of family and friends long since gone.

There are epic tales like The Iliad or The Odyssey told by Homer which essentially saved Greek mythology for all humankind. There are accounts of bravery, romance, and intrigue that capture the imagination and add a little excitement to one’s day. There are all sorts of stories, all around us, all of the time.

Being a history teacher myself, I make a living sharing stories. Stories from our history help us remember where we are from, and how we got to this time and place. They teach us what we have done right so we can repeat it, and occasionally what we have done wrong so we do not repeat it. The root of the word history itself is ‘story.’ The fact that it is called history refers to the fact that men generally were the keepers of the human tales before writing, and were the predominant authors of the earliest historical tales. Of course that was not and is not always the case. Many times in ancient tribal societies women were the ones who carried the tribal tales. There certainly have been plenty of wonderful historical accounts written by women throughout time. I guess it came down to who had the best memory and/or ability for that sort of thing.

It is amazing to think about societies that carried all of their stories in an oral tradition. Writing is a very new thing in human history. Before people decided that symbols could stand for sounds, and stringing them together could form words, people had to remember everything that was important to survive and to understand, accurately or not, the world they lived in. Quite a task, I would say!

Today’s book is entitled New Orleans Stories compiled by John Miller and distributed by Chronicle Books out of San Francisco, CA. It was put together in 1992. The book is a compilation of stories, from a number of eras, about the city of New Orleans, Louisiana. There are stories from anonymous writers about the exploration of the area that would become New Orleans. Writers of fact and fiction share their tales of Civil War times, voodoo, sporting events, Native Americans, music, food and general New Orleans culture for your reading pleasure. The book gives you a really interesting sketch of the Crescent City that resides predominantly below sea level in the deepest of the Deep South. There are a few very famous authors writing about the city, such as William Faulkner and Truman Capote, and a host of lesser known authors sharing their stories.

If you have never been to New Orleans, you should go. It has gone through a period of revitalization since the devastating Hurricane Katrina, and the city is back on its feet and bustling with great music, amazing food, and some of the most interesting characters you will ever meet in your life. There is no shortage of fun and excitement in the city of New Orleans, and who knows if you talk to the right people you might get a few interesting stories to carry back to your campfire or card table here. Have a taste of New Orleans in New Orleans Stories, and you may be inspired to go! Enjoy and read on!

Kerry Wholey is a freelance writer in Narragansett.


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