Synopses & Reviews
Like the bestselling Infinite City: A San Francisco Atlas,
this book is a brilliant reinvention of the traditional atlas, one that provides a vivid, complex look at the multi-faceted nature of New Orleans, a city replete with contradictions. More than twenty essays assemble a chorus of vibrant voices, including geographers, scholars of sugar and bananas, the city's remarkable musicians, prison activists, environmentalists, Arab and Native voices, and local experts, as well as the coauthorsand#8217; compelling contributions. Featuring 22 full-color two-page-spread maps, Unfathomable City
plumbs the depths of this major tourist destination, pivotal scene of American history and culture and, most recently, site of monumental disasters such as Hurricane Katrina and the BP oil spill.
The innovative mapsand#8217; precision and specificity shift our notions of the Mississippi, the Caribbean, Mardi Gras, jazz, soils and trees, generational roots, and many other subjects, and expand our ideas of how any city is imagined and experienced. Together with the inspired texts, they show New Orleans as both an imperiled cityand#151;by erosion, crime, corruption, and sea level riseand#151;and an ageless city that lives in music as a form of cultural resistance. Compact, lively, and completely original, Unfathomable City takes readers on a tour that will forever change the way they think about place.
"Following the same form as the groundbreaking Infinite City: A San Francisco Atlas, Solnit (Savage Dreams) enlists the help of filmmaker and native New Orleanian Snedeker to create this vivid portrait of one of America's most culturally rich city. More than an atlas or a travel guide, the book provides compendium of perspectives and histories, comprised of 22 short essays and numerous colorful and beautifully illustrated companion maps. Each essay falls on a spectrum between whimsical and dour: from 'Salacious and Crustaceous' by Evan Casper-Futterman, which covers the history of the seafood and sex industries of the city, to 'When They Set the Sea on Fire,' in which Antonia Juhasz revisits the 2010 British Petroleum oil spill and its environmental impact. In 'Bodies,' Nathaniel Rich, charts the land of the dead through a history of the city's burials. Up until around the mid-19th century, 'every time it rained, bodies popped out of the ground' due to low ground and high water table. Culture, history, and current events are rendered in strong prose throughout the collection, especially in the essays penned by Solnit and Snedeker. A captivating read for tourists, Louisiana residents, and just about anyone looking to gain familiarity with United States history, folklore, and myth-culture. (Nov.)" Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
"Rebecca Snedeker and Rebecca Solnit's Unfathomable City: A New Orleans Atlas is a book about New Orleans, but it's also a book about the kind of shared experiences and tensions that could exist in almost any city. Twenty-two maps illustrate ancient and recent histories of the Crescent City, with local tabs that inspire hums of pride. . . . Though many of those labels are specific to New Orleans, the themes they highlight exist other places, making the book not only a local's guide to the city, but also an anthropologist's guide to the idea of metropolis."
"Unique maps and eclectic essays pair to create a thought-provoking portrait of a singular city."
"An elegant and fascinating volume of maps, essays and artwork. . . . The result is intelligent, often beautiful prose and compelling maps in an exciting exploration of the idiosyncratic details, gestures and rituals that determine how people inhabit, love and perceive this elusive and entrancing city."
"'Unfathomable City's' secret weapon is its imaginative cartography. . . . Each chart, like a plate in a restaurant, has ingredients and flavors that take the reader deep into the city's history. If you think you know these streets, this atlas will make you want to walk them again."
"A deeply illuminating assemblage of maps and essays." David D'Arcy - San Francisco Chronicle
"A vivid portrait of one of America's most culturally rich cities. More than an atlas or a travel guide, the book provides a compendium of perspectives and histories, comprised of 22 short essays and numerous colorful and beautifully illustrated companion maps. . . . A captivating read for tourists, Louisiana residents, and just about anyone looking to gain familiarity with United States history, folklore, and myth-culture." STARRED REVIEW Lynell George - Chicago Tribune
"Unfathomable City is no standard atlas. . . . With beautiful maps and challenging essays, Unfathomable City presents New Orleans as infinitely complex and ultimately unknowable. The result is not a comprehensive guide, but an invitation." STARRED REVIEW Publishers Weekly
"New Orleans natives tell the same story in boardrooms and bus stops: Their city is a puzzle wrapped in a tease, a mystery scented by sweet olive and garbage, veiled by humidity, echoing with brass bands and the occasional gunshot. Thats the mystery probed on each page of 'Unfathomable City: A New Orleans Atlas,' the grand, map-laden anthology assembled by local filmmaker Rebecca Snedeker and the celebrated essayist and thinker Rebecca Solnit." Pamela Toler - Shelf Awareness
"The maps are playful, colorful and alive—in contrast to the utility we're used to with online mapping sites and apps. They're a joy to study; New Orleanians will no doubt pore over the map depicting the ongoing revival of once moribund St. Claude Avenue and the parade routes of the city's archaic but surviving social-aid and pleasure clubs. Tourists familiarizing themselves with the city may spend more time on the "Repercussions" map, tracing jazz history and club locations, or Billy Sothern's "sites of contemplation and delight," featuring sculpture gardens, synagogues and Meyer the Hatter. . . . Ms. Solnit and Ms. Snedeker prove that atlases can still fire the imagination and incite wonder." Chris Waddington - New Orleans Times-Picayune
"Packed with colorful maps and essays by star writers, this atlas-with-attitude 'encompasses second-line parades, the banana trade, bounce music, the revival along the St. Claude Avenue corridor, and conversations with such iconic musicians as George Porter Jr. and Donald Harrison Jr.'” TOP 10 BOOKS OF 2013 FOR NEW ORLEANS READERS Wayne Curtis - Wall Street Journal
"A brilliant reinvention of the traditional atlas. . . . Compact, lively, and completely original, Unfathomable City takes readers on a tour that will forever change the way they think about place." Chris Waddington - New Orleans Times-Picayune
"With “Unfathomable City,” Solnit and Snedeker have produced an idiosyncratic, luminous tribute to the greatest human creation defined by its audience participants: the city itself." Alan Petrucelli - Examiner.com
"The New Orleans the book charts is unfathomable 'because no two people live in quite the same city.' The twenty-two vignettes in this collection speak to that individual appreciation in twenty-three distinct voices, yet whatever the topic—apothecaries, lead poisoning, lemon ice, institutional abominations, sugar, bounce music, environmental calamities, shifts in the road, bananas—they burn bright, both breaking and gladdening your heart; and the handsome cartography is illuminating in the best tradition of maps: taking you there, for better or worse. . . . New Orleans may be porous as a sponge—in many ways, from its acceptance of refugees to water-charged soil types—but the writing here has a high specific gravity, a chewiness that makes you want to pay close attention and count your bites." Daniel Brook - New York Times
"A fascinating look at New Orleans. Through 22 maps varying in their strange detail and beauty, each accompanied by an essay, Solnit and Snedeker put together a deep portrait of the city and so much of what makes it unique." Peter Lewis - B&N Review
"Importantly, the book never fetishizes New Orleans. By addressing both the vibrant culture of public celebration (the second lines and the krewe parades and the near-constant festivals) and New Orleanss bleaker side (environmental exploitation, the opportunism of the banana industry, the failures of post-Katrina authority), Solnit and Snedeker present an honest portrait. They delve deep into the citys history, as far back as pre-European colonization, and resurface in the present, with bounce music and housing projects. Moreover, unlike many recent New Orleans books, they dont overly dwell on Katrina to milk sympathy or a morbid interest from their readers. In short, Unfathomable City is beautifully balanced." Vikas Turakhia - Cleveland Plain Dealer
"A treasure trove of rich reminiscences that will be appreciated by the native, and appeal to past and future tourists." Delaney Nolan - Oxford American
"The effect of Unfathomable City and the series of which it is a part is that of a healthy and bracing critique—one that we urgently need in this time of ubiquitous geographic information. It is a critique we should hope will extend to other American places as this lovely series continues." Aron Row - City Book Review
"A beautifully creative and colorful atlas of New Orleans . . . a rich visual and literary banquet, serving up a kaleidoscopic array of perspectives on the city's multifarious peoples and their struggles and victories." Matthew Battles - Orion
"Beautiful cartography and from-the-street, intimate essays by lives lived in this city. My wanderlust was sated." Ed Conroy - San Antonio Express-News
"This series of atlases is one of my absolute favorites. Vivid, beautiful, and deceptively meaningful, Unfathomable City
successfully pushes cartographic conventions. It explores what it means to know a place, not just the street grid. A delight to behold, this is an incredible achievement rarely seen in modern cartography." and#151;William McNulty, cartographer, former director of maps at National Geographic, former graphics editor, New York Times
"This bright, rolling river of a book carries a chorus of mapmakers, writers, andand#160;artists singing of deep memory in New Orleans. Unfathomable City is a book to cherishand#151;and sure to be a classic." and#151;Jason Berry, New Orleansand#150;based journalist and coauthor ofand#160;Up from the Cradle of Jazz:and#160;New Orleans Music since World War II
"Race, space, and place: this atlas is a peopleand#8217;s ecology of persistent resistance, an open-ended historical geography guiding toward an indomitable futureand#151;a permanent revolution no less likely than the city itself. Read this book!" and#151;Ruth Wilson Gilmore, Professor of Earth and Environmental Sciences, CUNY Graduate Center
About the Author
Rebecca Solnit is the author of many books, including Savage Dreams, Storming the Gates of Paradise, and Infinite City: A San Francisco Atlas, all from UC Press. Rebecca Snedeker is an Emmy Awardand#150;winning independent filmmaker and native New Orleanian.
Table of Contents
Introduction: Sinking In and Reaching Out
Map 1. A City in Time: La Nouvelle-Orland#233;ans over 300 Years
How New Orleans Happened, by Richard Campanella
Map 2. Ebb and Flow: Migrations of the Houma, Erosions of the Coast
Southward into Vanishing Lands, by Monique Verdin
Map 3. Stationary Revelations: Sites of Contemplation and Delight
On a Strange Island, by Billy Sothern
Map 4. People Who
Here They Come, There They Go, by Lolis Eric Elie
Map 5. Moves, Remains: Hiding and Seeking the Dead
Bodies, by Nathaniel Rich
Map 6. Oil and Water: Extracting Petroleum, Exterminating Nature
When They Set the Sea on Fire, by Antonia Juhasz
Map 7. Of Levees and Prisons: Failures of Containment, Surges of Freedom
Lockdown Louisiana, by Lydia Pelot-Hobbs
Map 8. Civil Rights and Lemon Ice: Three Lives in the Old City
The Presence of the Past, by Dana Logsdon and Dawn Logsdon
Map 9. Sugar Heaven and Sugar Hell: Pleasures and Brutalities of a Commodity
No Sweetness Is Light, by Shirley Elizabeth Thompson
Map 10. and#161;Bananas!
Fruitsand#8217; Fortunes at the Gate of the Tropics, by Joshua Jelly-Schapiro
Map 11. Hot and Steamy: Selling Seafood, Selling Sex
Salacious and Crustaceous, by Evan Casper-Futterman
Map 12. The Mississippi Is (Not) the Nile: Arab New Orleans, Real and Imagined
The Ibis-Headed God of New Orleans, by Khaled Hegazzi and Andy Youngand#160;
Map 13. The Line-Up: Live Oak Corridors and Carnival Parade Routes
Sentinels and Celebrants, by Eve Abrams
Map 14. Repercussions: Rhythm and Resistance across the Atlantic
and#147;It Enriches My Spirit to Be Linked to Such a Deep and Far-Reaching Piece of What This Universe Isand#8221;: A Conversation with Herreast Harrison and Donald Harrison Jr.
Map 15. Thirty-Nine Sundays: Social Aid and Pleasure Clubs Take It to the Streets
Rollinand#8217; Wid It, by Joel Dinerstein
Map 16. Bass Lines: Deep Sounds and Soils
The Floating Cushion: George Porter Jr. on the Cityand#8217;s Low End
Map 17. Where Dey At: Bounce Calls Up a Vanished City
A Home in Song, by Garnette Cadogan
Map 18. Snakes and Ladders: What Rose Up, What Fell Down During Hurricane Katrina
Nothing Was Foreordained, by Rebecca Solnit
Map 19. St. Claude Avenue: Loss and Recovery on an Inner-City Artery
The Beginning of This Road, by Maurice Carlos Ruffin
Map 20. Juju and Cuckoo: Taking Care of Crazy
Holding It Together, Falling Apart, by Rebecca Snedeker
Map 21 . Lead and Lies: Mouths Full of Poison
Charting the Territories of Untruth, by Rebecca Solnit
Map 22. Waterland
The Cement Lily Pad, by Rebecca Snedeker