As New Orleanians, we are lucky to live in a city so steeped in history and lore. Perhaps this is why New Orleans figures so prominently in so many great works of literature and why so many authors chose to set their imaginary worlds here. It is amazing to think of the spots we pass every day and don't ever realize are where some of our favorite literary characters would have lived, worked, and played. Here are five real-life locations throughout our city from famous works of fiction that take place in and around our town. While the weather is still nice, take the time to rediscover these spots and go on your own literary tour of New Orleans.
Lives of the Mayfair Witches
Anne Rice (1990-1994)
Mayfair Manor, d.b.a. Anne Rice's former home, 1239 First St., Garden District
Before Twilight and True Blood and the mainstreaming of all-things-goth, there was Anne Rice, New Orleans' own queen of spook and one of the world's most celebrated authors of the supernatural. Born in New Orleans, Rice spent much of her early life here. She clearly has a love affair with the Crescent City, giving it star billing alongside her main characters. While Rice is probably best known for her Vampire Chronicles, her series about the Mayfair Witches (The Witching Hour, Lasher, Taltos) hauntingly sheds light on the secret lives of a family of witches living in Uptown New Orleans. When Rice moved back to New Orleans in the late 1980s, she settled into a mansion at 1239 First St. in the Garden District and made it the inspiration for Mayfair Manor. Among the many locations around the house that figure prominently in these stories are the swimming pool in the back garden and the ornate, two-story side porch. In the Mayfair world, the swimming pool was built by Stella Mayfair during her wild youth, and it is here that Michael Curry is found floating dead on Christmas morning, after suffering a heart attack while fighting Lasher. Deidre Mayfair sits in a rocking chair on the porch in silence for over 30 years, with Lasher often whispering into her ear. Antha Mayfair jumps to her death from the roof of the porch in an attempt to escape becoming part of the Mayfair legacy. Although Rice moved away from New Orleans before Hurricane Katrina, her gorgeous former home is a favorite sight on Garden District walking tours for its beauty and its connection to the author's mystical world.
A Streetcar Named Desire
Tennessee Williams (1947)
Elysian Fields Avenue, Faubourg Marigny
A novel now so synonymous with the Big Easy that we have an annual "Stella!" shouting contest and Tennessee Williams Festival to accompany it, A Streetcar Named Desire takes place throughout our fair city. The stars of Tennessee Williams' Pulitzer Prize-winning play, Stanley and Stella Kowalski, live in the Faubourg Marigny neighborhood on the bottom floor of an apartment building on Elysian Fields Avenue. Their landlords, Steve and Eunice Hubbell, live in the apartment above. After the pivotal scene, where Stanley smacks the crap out of Stella, she is whisked away to safety upstairs at the Hubbells' apartment. It is here, on New Orleans' own Champs Elysees, that Stanley lets out the gut-wrenching "Stell-ahhhh!" heard around the world. Earlier this year, the Michalopolous Gallery, located at 527 Elysian Fields, was the site of the Southern Repertory Theatre's highly successful production of A Streetcar Named Desire. The location was chosen as a nod to the avenue's essential role in the original play and a way for the audience to feel as though they were part of Stanley and Stella's world.
The Pelican Brief
John Grisham (1992)
Tulane University Law School 6329 Freret St., Uptown
Established in 1847, Tulane University Law School is the 12th oldest in the country and the institution of choice for Darby Shaw, the heroine of John Grisham's crime thriller The Pelican Brief. It is in the halls of Tulane that she not only has a love affair with her professor, but also formulates her theory about the mysterious (and seemingly unrelated) murders of two Supreme Court justices, which eventually comes to be known as…the "Pelican Brief"! America's sweetheart Julia Roberts famously played Miss Shaw in the fi lm based on the novel, that was shot on location in New Orleans in 1993.
George Washington Cable (1879)
Madame John's Legacy 632 Dumaine St., French Quarter
The second-oldest building in the Mississippi River Valley (after the Ursuline Convent), Madame John's Legacy is one of the fi nest examples of Creole architecture in this city and miraculously survived the great fi re that engulfed the French Quarter in 1794. With its unassuming olive green-and-white façade, it is one of those buildings that people, especially locals, pass all the time, never appreciating its immense historical value. Although the home has been inhabited by a host of colorful characters throughout its lifetime, none were actually named Madame John. The moniker comes from George Washington Cable's short story, Tite Poulette. Cable, a native of New Orleans, was fascinated by the complexities of miscegenation and race relations in the antebellum world. 'Tite Poulette is the fictional account of the beautiful quadroon Zalli, who squanders the inheritance she receives from her Creole lover, Monsieur John. Now a part of the Louisiana State Museum, Madame John's Legacy is open to the public for tours, ongoing exhibits, and special events.
A Confederacy of Dunces
John Kennedy Toole (1980)
D.H. Holmes Department Store, d.b.a. Hyatt French Quarter Hotel 800 block of Canal Street, French Quarter
As A Confederacy of Dunces opens, our protagonist and quite possibly New Orleans' most famous fictional character, Ignatius J. Reilly, is waiting for his mother outside the D. H. Holmes Department Store in the 800 block of Canal Street, disapprovingly observing the throngs of people passing by. Patrolman Angelo Mancuso watches this "suspicious character" from behind a nearby pillar. From 1849 until it was sold to Dillard's in 1989, D.H. Holmes was a true New Orleans landmark, with "under the D.H. Holmes clock" being a popular meeting place. Today the building is the new Hyatt French Quarter Hotel. There is still a statue of Ignatius, decked out in his ill-fitting floppy hat and holding a Werlein's Music bag, in front of the hotel (although it is removed and put into safekeeping every Mardi Gras season), with a plaque on one of the columns commemorating Patrolman Mancuso's hiding place.
A few others, just for fun:
Mosquitoes, William Faulkner (1927) Much of the action happens on a boat trip on Lake Pontchartrain.
Dinner at Antoine's Francis Parkinson Keyes (1947) This murder mystery begins and ends with dinner parties taking place at (where else?) Antoine's Restaurant, located at 713 St. Louis St. in the French Quarter.
Chasing the Devil's Tale, David Fullmer (2001) Valentin St. Cyr is a detective in 1907 Storyville, New Orleans' former red light district. While most of the historical buildings have been demolished since the Great Depression, you can still take a walk down Basin Street in the French Quarter, where much of the action was centralized, and relive those bawdy times.