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Tricentennial Reading List With Nancy Dixon (Part 3)

  21st century

  • The Floating World, by Morgan Babst
  • Restoration, by John Ed Bradley
  • The Not-Yet and Dream State, by Moira Crone
  • The Missing, by Tim Gautreaux
  • Hold It Til It Hurts, by T. Geronimo Johnson
  • The Sound of Building Coffins, by Louis Maistros
  • Property, by Valerie Martin
  • City of Refuge, by Tom Piazza
  • Fives and Twenty-fives, by Michael Pitre
  • King Zeno, by Nathaniel Rich
  • A Kind of Freedom, by Margaret Wilkerson Sexton


[Autumn in Bagdad, by Gilad Atzmon]

Susan Larson: Two great books about veterans in New Orleans coming back after war and restoring themselves, Hold it Till it Hurts by T. Geronimo Johnson, such a great writer, and Michael Pitre's, Fives and Twenty-Fives, about a soldier recovering.

Nancy Dixon: Actually, I just finished that book. I picked it up this summer to read, and I read it so fast that I was really sad when I let it go, but it was just that absorbing to me. I don't know a better picture of the war in the Middle East. I don't know a better picture of the confusion, the chaos, the absolute immorality, and morality at the same time of war and the people in it. It's sad too, but it's really, really immediate, and it's sort of a gut punch when you finish and you think about the fact that he went through this.

Susan: Yes, and none of us are immune. These things are happening around us every day.

[Saint James Infirmary, by Evan Christopher’s Clarinet Road]

Susan: I love that so many writers still find inspiration in history and bring it to life in fiction. I think of Restoration, by John Ed Bradley, which is such a great tribute to the art of the WPA. I think King Zeno by Nathaniel Rich is one of my favorite novels now because he brought to life the building of the industrial canal.

Nancy: Right, I know. Who would do that? By the mafia, and we have the Cornet player, we have the sort of Buddy Bolden characters.

Susan: We have murderers too.

Nancy: Yes, we have murders. That's another wild book, also a beautiful cover.

Susan: Yes, gorgeous cover art on that. Really clever.

Nancy: Yes, I loved it, title, everything about it.

[Nervous, by The Iguanas]

Susan: Of course the great dividing line in the 21st century for a lot of writers is, [Hurricane] Katrina.

Nancy: It is Katrina.

Susan: Before and after, which pose such problems for writers. How do you deal with that? Do you go around it, go through it, ignore it? Not very likely. I think, A City of Refuge, by Tom Piazza, is really the first major novel to come out after Katrina.

Nancy: We see the love for the city too.

Susan: Then we saw the anger in Tom Piazza's Why New Orleans Matters, which was something we were all feeling at the time, so important. I think we still have Katrina books coming along like, The Floating World by Morgan Babst, that was one of the more memorable ones to me.

Nancy: The Katrina Papers, by Jerry Ward. That's a great account of, not just his, but largely his saga during and struggle after Katrina. It represents what so many people suffered, and he lost all his books.

Susan: I know. I also love The Missing, by Tim Gautreaux. I have to end on that note I think, because it's a Mississippi River novel, it's a caper. It's also a story of an ordinary New Orleanian who's working in a department store, and then just gets swept up into a great adventure. Tim is a great chronicler of the wry wit of our people I think.

[War is All Over, by John Boutte]

The Reading Life in 2010, Susan Larson was the book editor for The New Orleans Times-Picayune from 1988-2009. She has served on the boards of the Tennessee Williams/New Orleans Literary Festival and the New Orleans Public Library. She is the founder of the New Orleans chapter of the Women's National Book Association, which presents the annual Diana Pinckley Prizes for Crime Fiction.. In 2007, she received the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities lifetime achievement award for her contributions to the literary community. She is also the author of The Booklover's Guide to New Orleans. If you run into her in a local bookstore or library, she'll be happy to suggest something you should read. She thinks New Orleans is the best literary town in the world, and she reads about a book a day.

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