City of New Orleans.
Some remember the cathedral and the other Catholic churches serving a distinctive culture, others, the voodoo shops in close proximity to these houses of worship. Some remember the lively nights on Bourbon Street (and mornings after!), others, leisurely daytime strolls along Magazine Street.
Some don't believe me when I tell them about another, less known face of New Orleans. It's the used bookshops scattered about the French Quarter.
"Who goes to New Orleans for used books?" many people ask. I do!
For the past two decades I've been a denizen of these wonderful repositories of culture that speak volumes about life and living there. From the wide variety of books available in these shops, it's clear that New Orleans is a city that treasures the written word and loves to read.
My favorite used bookstore in the French Quarter is just a stone's throw from Jackson Square, the cathedral, and Cafe Du Monde. Nestled into mid-block at 823 Chartres Street is Librairie Books. This small store holds floor-to-ceiling shelves filled with fascinating books. The fiction books are accurately alphabetized and nonfiction books arranged according to subject matters. Librairie Books has one of the best religion sections I've ever seen in a used bookstore, and I've purchased many a sacred tome there through the years.
Not quite the stereotype of the Quarter.
My latest visit to this bookstore, hopefully not my last, was in early June. I purchased a first edition of the 1994 novel, Decorations in a Ruined Cemetery (Houghton Mifflin). Its author, John Gregory Brown, grew up in New Orleans and captured its soul in this, his first novel. His second novel, The Wrecked, Blessed Body of Shelton Lafleur (Houghton Mifflin), is yet another magnificent reflection of this unique city. And his latest novel, Audubon's Watch (Houghton Mifflin), set in the early 19th century, celebrates an older New Orleans.
These books are neither trite travelogues nor pretentious paeans of the Crescent City that has occupied our national consciousness these past months. Brown's novels transcend superficiality by exploring the interior lives of people who are New Orleans. Among the many writers who have set their creative efforts in New Orleans, John Gregory Brown's books are the best.
It's still too early to predict the exact future of this unique piece of geography. Who knows the fate of Librairie Books in the French Quarter, or Feelings Cafe, or the myriad of other mystical sights and sounds that create New Orleans? But I do know where to find the heart and soul of this unique city. It's deep within Decorations in a Ruined Cemetery, The Wrecked, Blessed Body of Shelton Lafleur, and Audubon's Watch.
Read them and remember New Orleans.
PETER GILMOUR (Pgilmou@wpo.it.luc.edu) teaches at the Institute of Pastoral Studies of Loyola University Chicago.
|Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback|
|Title Annotation:||Librairie Books: the book store has one of the best religion sections|
|Date:||Nov 1, 2005|
|Previous Article:||The challenge.|
|Next Article:||We do liturgy well.|