The Short Stories: New Orleans Noir
Now that I’m back at school, time to switch reading gears. When you have over a hundred pages of reading to do in a week (and not just reading you can skim) plus papers, the longform novel starts looking less appealing. However, the thought of merely reading for my graduate program hurts my soul. I tend to need a little fiction in my life.
Enter the short story.
I love short story anthologies, particularly themed short story anthologies. They provide perfect sized morsels of that can sate the fiction craving. Sometimes I’ll pick up a collection by a single author (last year was a Raymond Carver binge–how could not be drawn to a book with the title What We Talk About When We Talk About Love). Other times, I’ll look for themed anthologies–particular collections that share a theme of place.
A story’s setting can add so much dimension–squandering it can really hurt the story overall, even if the plot and characters are well drawn.*
And when you have a setting like New Orleans, the place itself becomes a lead character in its own right (assuming its potential is actually realized). At least, that was my thinking when I picked up New Orleans Noir. Looking at the table of contents, the book is split between pre-Katrina New Orleans (Before the Levees Broke) and post-Katrina New Orleans (Life in Atlantis). Each story is set in a different neighborhood and purports to capture the flavor of that section of the city.
The book is part of the Akashic Noir series, which apparently organizes anthologies around the “noir” tales that arise around the world.** Assuming I like the New Orleans collection, I will likely have 20+ anthologies to add to my “to-read” list.
Oh well, if graduate school keeps me from traveling to Rome and Texas*** for real, at least I’ll be able to visit**** them through these stories, so long as the settings are not squandered.
* And when the plot and characters suck–well, you get Real Vampires Have Curves.
** Most of the books are set in the United States (three anthologies for Brooklyn alone, plus separate ones for Queens and Manhattan). However, there’s also Delhi Noir, Istanbul Noir, and London Noir among others. There’s also a Twin Cities Noir book which fascinates me. One would expect cities like Tokyo, Berlin or Atlanta to get anthologies before the Twin Cities.
*** Surprisingly, there are no separate anthologies for Dallas, Houston, Austin or any other major Texas cities. It’s just Lone Star Noir.
**** And I will be exploring other places by reading these anthologies, as a Noir anthology based in my city has neither been released yet, nor is on the “to be released” list. Lagos and Richmond are getting their anthologies before my city.