Monday, March 24, 2008

Fried Chicken and Sazeracs

While I read and type in my southern California mountain home, I stream the audio from WWOZ, a public radio station in New Orleans that plays jazz and local music. My pal TR is a dj there, though I always miss his show. Just now they were announcing that the Tennessee Williams Festival has begun, and good luck to them. I prefer the Words and Music Festival, which developed from the Pirates Alley Faulkner House Bookshop's celebration of Faulkner's birthday (which I share, along with Olivia Newton-John).

Today also arrived a request for a good New Orleans restaurant that catered to vegetarians, particularly Ward Six supporter A.J. Rathbun, whose cocktail book Good Spirits is up for two IACP awards, the ceremony for which will be held in New Orleans soon. I suggested Galatoires, which can assemble a variety of potatoes brabant and stuffed eggplant and broccoli bernaise, and also because it is the launching place for Eudora Welty's great story "No Place for You My Love."

Gumbo Tales: Finding My Place at the New Orleans Table, by Sara Roahen, just arrived via Powells last week and I've been reading through its fine and thoughtful essays about my favorite things, which she discovered about the same time I did, and who also left the city around the time of the levee failure. Among these things: sazeracs and the fried chicken at Willie Mae's Scotch House.

I've never been hog wild about Tennessee Williams, with the exception of this, and most certainly this, mostly because I've never lived anywhere with much theater, I think, or where theater wasn't an accessible thing to me, or the theater where I was seemed silly. I suppose it's in the same boat as serious fiction and any poetry, and that there should be some solidarity or recognition, but I don't much feel it. Do you?


Anonymous said...

Can you tell me whom you contacted regarding press passes? I am the publicist for the TWFest, and I contacted Joe Longo last week to see who would like to cover the Fest for nolafugees. He gave me two writers' names and they were promptly added to the list. Your information is incorrect, and I would appreciate a retraction.
Ellen Johnson
Tennessee Williams/New Orleans Literary Festival

rmellis said...

Wow, I had totally forgotten about that Welty story -- another one for my top ten.

I am not a fan of theater myself. I blame a lack of early exposure.

Ed, if you don't mind, I'll add a footnote to your post taking the above comment into account.

ed said...

Ellen--cheerfully corrected.

joel rigby said...

Theatre is kind of at a low ebb, yes, but not nearly like the short story which is dead. Poetry, too, is bad off but in different ways (however, as with fiction, it too is marginalized and out of the popular mind).

joel rigby said...

Sorry for the xtra comment but I meant to add that unlike fiction, theatre still plays a community role, in cities and even small towns.

rmellis said...

The short story is NOT dead!

How can it be dead if I keep reading good ones?

Anonymous said...

Being un-prominent in the popular mind is not equivalent to death, in my view.

joel rigby said...

A bit confused. Isn't that what we're talking about here? Community theater, and Tennessee Williams? No commercial venues exist for serious fiction at all and it is nearly 100% inaccessible the popular mind. It's not a career, it's gone, only ivory tower connoisseurs even talk about it now. Everyone knows the short story is dead.

Anyway, I do like a blog named after Chekhov.

Anonymous said...

If I am doing it, it isn't dead.

Us talking about Chekhov and naming a blog after one of his stories means it isn't dead. And blogging is about as far from the ivory tower as you can get, my perfesserness notwithstanding. Maybe if we were driving around in a pickup truck talking about literature through a loudspeaker, that might conceivably qualify as more egalitarian.

Not to greet a new visitor fully armored, but, you know, the literary short story was never supposed to be homecoming queen, I don't think. I'm certainly sympathetic to Ed's desire for some greater communal appreciation of the form, but personally, I ain't doin' it for the neighbors, I'm doin' it because I cain't stop.

zoe said...

Isn't the notion of the short story being dead and inaccessible to the popular mind a touch inversely snobbish?

In my experience, short stories are often read by "readers" but then, that's the case with literary fiction generally. I teach lots of short stories -- generally to non "readers", I write them and I enjoy reading them from time to time. Teaching, producing, and buying them means they are alive and well.

They don't have to be number one in the best sellers lists to have a readership.

This business about, it's all for the priveleged few in their ivory towers, makes me nauseous.

zoe said...

Also, the issue about fiction not having a community forum is rubbish. There are loads of reading groups all over the world. Plus once people realise that they have to make things happen for themselves, amazing things can happen. The sort of things I wanted to be involved in didn't exist so I started organising things myself and am very happy with the people I've met and the impact on my own writing.

If you were to sit and wait for things to occur fiction-wise (and you didn't live somewhere like London or New York) you'd most likely be a long time waiting. As Mr Costner said, "build it and they will come" or something.