Award-winning novelist and cultural critic writer Tom Piazza is a longtime resident of New Orleans, and a celebrator of the music and culture of that city. In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, from a temporary outpost in Missouri, he began work immediately after the storm on this impassioned book-length essay on the storied past, imperiled present, and uncertain future of this great and most neglected of American cities. At its heart, it is a valentine to the people of New Orleans, and a plea on for their spiritual survival. "That spirit is in terrible jeopardy right now," he writes. "If it dies, something precious and profound will go out of the world forever. Maybe not entirely; maybe New Orleans people, black and white, will get together in exile every year and commemorate their holidays and their spirit, Mardi Gras and jazzfest, red beans on Monday and barbecue and beer at Vaughan's on Friday evening, maybe zydeco night at Rock n' bowl on Thursday, and keep it alive in exile as the descendents of the Israelites have kept their faith and their covenant alive. That is up to them. But in the near term, the place, the sacred ground, that gave birth to all that beautiful and deep spirit hangs in the balance."
In the tradition of Pete Hamill's Why Sinatra Matters, Peter Guralnick's Searching for Robert Johnson, and E. B. White's Here Is New York, Why New Orleans Matters is a gift from one of our most talented writers to the beloved and important city he calls home-and to a nation to whom that city's survival has been entrusted.
“Pensive and elegiac… sharp [and] steely. …A mournful dirge and a vivacious ode to the city.”