There are few times better than now to make it a point to set aside time and enjoy a great book. One of the most easily accessible forms of enrichment, books are also the core of what our entertainment industry today prides itself on. Though movies and high-production quality TV series may have the flash and thunder of explosive trailers and wow-inducing marketing, books are still by and large the most plentiful and distilled way to enjoy a narrative. This Author's Day on November 1, kick back and enjoy one of the five books listed below that have a distinct focus on the storied port city of New Orleans.
Written by Kate Chopin and published in 1899, The Awakening recounts the story of one Edna Pontellier as she grows increasingly distant from the enforced and rigorous roles of a woman of her rank. The book is acclaimed in modern times, not only for its excellent prose, but for being one of the seminal and early works of feminist literature. The character of Edna Pontellier is both a controversial and much-analyzed feminist figure in literary circles, and the New Orleanian and Gulf Louisianian environments she must endure are excellent case studies on the topic as well. This is an excellent novel and not a terribly difficult read, so if you have yet to peruse its contents, then make it a point to do so soon.
A Streetcar Named Desire
A woefully and almost suspiciously incomplete list this would be were it to omit what is arguably the most salient work of New Orleans fiction thus far. Though it was not Tennessee Williams's personal favorite in his repertoire of plays, many would argue that it is both his magnum opus and his most influential work. A Streetcar Named Desire was published in 1947, and the script of this famed play is more than worth the short amount of time it will take you to read. With lovely, timely descriptions of important areas like the French Quarter and incredibly deft development of now-famous characters like Blanche DuBois and Stanley Kowalski, the script for this play is an outstanding read and a masterpiece that no one should pass up.
A Confederacy of Dunces
A piece of New Orleans literature with that familiar property of having its name in the back of many people's heads but its actual contents in the heads of much fewer, A Confederacy of Dunces is still one of the greats in the Crescent City's literary lexicon. The book has sweeping and fabulously detailed descriptions of many of New Orleans's greatest features and districts and also prominently displays our magazine's namesake, the "Yat" dialect of English that permeates the city. This novel was published fairly recently compared to the other two mentioned thus far, with a posthumous publication date of 1980.
One of the lesser-known entries in the legendary William Faulkner's repertoire, Mosquitoes is a strange, satiric novel following a group of eccentrics and is largely set in the city of New Orleans. It made no real splash upon its initial publication, and while it has seen somewhat of a rise in popularity in more recent times, the book is considered very difficult to read, due both to Faulkner's well-known tendency to circumlocute and cohesiveness issues. While many cited The Sound and The Fury as incredibly incohesive and difficult to read, it is both of those things by design, and that is a critical part of the novel's identity. Mosquitoes, conversely, actually suffered a butchering by Faulkner's editor that removed many plot points and important sections that contained taboos considered too risqué to publish for the time. Nonetheless, Mosquitoes is well-written and an interesting project for you to read and research on your own.
Finally, finishing this list is Walker Percy's first and most famous book to date. Published in 1961 and widely praised since, The Moviegoer is a novel abounding with poetic and philosophical issues that tackles themes of identity and our quest for meaning. Using New Orleans as the main character's residence and springboard for his philosophical quest, The Moviegoer is an excellent read for anyone looking for a bit of New Orleans literature that is a bit off the beaten path but nonetheless masterful.