In 1947 Louis Armstrong posited the musical question, “Do you know what it means to miss New Orleans?” Sixty years later, this chestnut has taken on a whole new meaning, and (if you have any kind of heart at all) has a tendency to stick in the throat. This collection of mostly short musings in, around, and about the Crescent City finds Transylvanian transplant Andrei Codrescu in his cups and in his element and shows us exactly what it should mean.
You might think that the Deep South would be an odd choice of pot for a former Eastern Bloc no-goodnik to replant himself in, but with further contemplation, it does make sense. First of all, there is the vampire connection, a Bohemian sense of empire gone to dangerous seed, and a certain resigned patience that someone familiar with Soviet-style can-do attitude might recognize and respond to (eventually) in the low-gear stifling heat.
Arriving in town in 1985, Codrescu wasted no time in surrounding himself with like-minded writers, artists, and miscreants which all make for an entertaining read as they play out their fantastical roles on a rotting, vibrantly-colored stage. There is a bracingly abrupt pause between Codrescu’s description of a burgeoning art scene and the arrival of Hurricane Katrina. Most of this book is concerned with the years between 1985 and 2005, but there is an epilogue chillingly entitled, poetry will not end with the world.
“It’s heartbreaking watching my city sink,” Codrescu writes. “New Orleans will be rebuilt, but it will never again be the city I know and love.” After an entire book taken up showing us what we were missing, Codrescu unwittingly showed the world exactly what it should miss.