Sunday, April 20, 2014

'Making New Orleans' a gorgeous homage to products created in Crescent City

             I’m with Julia Reed. Although being a native of New Orleans and long knowing some of the products hailing from the Crescent City, I had no idea it was such a bastion of manufacturing. And like Reed, who writes the foreword to the impressive “Making New Orleans: Products Past and Present,” I’m indebted to Phillip Collier for producing such a valuable tome to my home town.
            The coffee table book published by Philbeau Pulbishing of New Orleans showcases the many products hailing from the city, with each chapter providing background information from several of the city’s historians, educators and journalists. Production values are superb, accented by gorgeous graphics and photographs from numerous city archives.
            Readers will definitely come away with a better appreciation of what New Orleans offered the world, some familiar like coffee and chicory and some surprising, such as Wesson Oil, Progresso Quality Foods (yes, the soup people) and major sugar and molasses distributors. There were numerous sodas produced here, including Barq’s and its dual life before being purchased by Coca Cola. Perhaps the first American dressmaker to label her clothes was Madame Olympe of New Orleans. And today’s Warehouse District was home to massive cotton mills — who knew?
            “Making New Orleans” is a gorgeous book and makes an excellent gift to those who love Louisiana history. Kudos to Collier and company for collecting such fascinating information within such a stunning book.

Creole World
            My father embodied New Orleans. He studied everything about the city’s nuances and culture and shared them with every tourist he could find. One thing I vividly remember of our trips to the French Quarter was my father insisting the old quarter wasn’t French, pointing out the Roman arches, courtyards and balconies built during the Spanish regime. Today, Vieux Carré streets contain markers detailing their Latin names during that time.
            We natives also love to say New Orleans is the uppermost quadrant of the Caribbean — which isn’t too far off if you read Richard Sexton’s gorgeous new photo exploration of New Orleans and its ties to all points south. “Creole World: Photographs of New Orleans and the Latin Caribbean Sphere,” published by the Historic New Orleans Collection examines the connections, particularly in architecture, between New Orleans and Latin America, based on Sexton’s years of living in one and traveling to another. He compares images from Haiti, Panama City, Cuba, Colombia, Argentina and Ecuador.
            Sexton argues that “New Orleans’s uniqueness is hardly uncommon,” that many cities of the world can claim its attributes. Just not in the United States, he writes: “New Orleans, I came to learn, is unique in that it is the United States’ sole outpost of the Creole world.”
            The book consists of 200 color images by Sexton accompanied by his text and includes essays by Creole architecture scholar Jay D. Edward and photography historian John H. Lawrence.
            An exhibit of Sexton’s photos are also on display at the Collection and the author will sign copies of his book and discuss the contents from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday in the Laura Simon Nelson Galleries, 400 Chartres St. in New Orleans. Books will be sold at the event and are also available in the Collection’s gift shop.
            In addition, Sexton will discuss the book at the Fine Print Book Club June 20 and 21 at the Collection.
            For more information on these and other events, visit www.hnoc.org. The “Creole World” exhibit remains up until December.

Edsel visit
            Robert M. Edsel, author of “The Monuments Men: Allied Heroes, Nazi Thieves, and the Greatest Treasure Hunt in History,” on which a film was made last year, will visit Shreveport Saturday, April 26, for the Authors in April fundraiser to benefit the Pioneer Heritage Center on the campus of Louisiana State University-Shreveport. Edsel is the founder and president of the Monuments Men Foundation, an organization that honors the legacy of the men and women who served in the Monuments, Fine Arts, and Archives section, known as the “Monuments Men,” and their work protecting and safeguarding artistic and cultural treasures from armed conflict during World War II. Edsel is also the author of “Rescuing Da Vinci,” and co-producer of the Emmy-nominated “The Rape of Europa,” a documentary based on the award-winning 2006 book. He will be speaking on the topic of his latest book, “Saving Italy: The Race to Rescue a Nation’s Treasures from the Nazis,” a follow-up account of two of the Monuments Men.

New releases
            Renae Friedly collects the history of Breaux Bridge in photos in “Breaux Bridge,” a new book from Arcadia Publishing’s Images of America series. Highlights of the book include images from personal collections of local residents, photos from the first Crawfish Festival, history of the area and more. Friedley is a writer and photographer in Baton Rouge and publisher of The Gulf Coast Arts & Entertainment Review for nine years. Friedley recently presented the photograph exhibition, “Loving Louisiana — Celebrating the Cultures & Traditions of South Louisiana” at Le Musé in New Orleans. She will receive her Masters of Art in Museum Studies from Southern University at New Orleans in May.
            Ellen Gilchrist, once a resident of New Orleans, received the 1984 National Book Award for Fiction for her short story collection, “Victory Over Japan.” She returns with her first short story collection in eight years with “Acts of God” by Algonquin Press. She now lives in Fayetteville, Ark., where she teaches creative writing at the University of Arkansas, and shares her time in Ocean Springs, Miss.
            John Dufresne, author of “Louisiana Power and Light,” has published “No Regrets, Coyote,” in which forensic consultant Wylie “Coyote” Melville is summoned to a horrific crime scene on Christmas Eve in Eden, Florida. Five members of the Halliday family have been brutally killed. As Wylie begins his own investigation he discovers a web of corruption involving the police union, Ponzi-scheming lawyers, county politicians, and the Russian mob.
            Dr. Sara Ritchey, an associate professor in the University of Louiaiana-Lafayette History Department has just released her book, “Holy Matter: Changing Perceptions of the Material World in Late Medieval Christianity,” published by Cornell University Press.

Chapbook workshop
              Poet and author J. Bruce Fuller brings his Chapbook Workshop to NUNU Arts and Culture Collective's NUNU yoU program from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, May 3-4, in Arnaudville. Participants will construct and fill their own chapbook, and learn the means to publish. The cost is $80, $60 for NUNU members, for six hours of instruction; call (337) 484-9190. A chapbook is a small collection of poetry, generally no more than 30-35 pages, typically saddle-stitched (like a pamphlet or magazine) and well suited to smaller print-runs. Fuller, who teaches English at UL, has this year published three chapbooks of poetry and short stories. NUNU Arts and Culture Collective is located at 1510 Courtableau Road in Arnaudville. For more information visit: http://www.nunucollective.org.


Cheré Coen is the author of “Haunted Lafayette, Louisiana” and “Exploring Cajun Country: A Historic Guide to Acadiana,” both from The History Press, and co-author of “Magic’s in the Bag: Creating Spellbinding Gris Gris Bags and Sachets.” She teaches writing at UL-Lafayette’s Continuing Education. Write her at cherecoen@gmail.com.