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Lagniappe

 
THE

Defender Picks

 

VENDREDI

March 24th

Basic Buddhist Meditation

LIFE Yoga, 7AM

An intro course from Zen teacher Thich Thien Tri

 

Book Signing: Robert Wagner

Adler's New Orleans, 11AM

Hollywood legend signs copies of 'I Loved Her in the Movies'

 

New Creations Brass Band

B.M.C., 11am

Local Brass Band brings a mix of standards and new creations

 

Bourbon Festival

Marriot Convention Center, 6:30PM

Day one of the inaugural Bourbon Fest

 

DumbSmart Industries Showcase

The Broad Theater, 7PM

Short film showcase 

 

Kermit Ruffins & the Barbecue Swingers

Blue Nile 7:30PM

Friday nights with Kermit on Frenchmen 

 

Matisyahu

House of Blues, 8PM

Hebrew hip hop

 

Varla Jean Merman Sings? 

Cafe Istanbul, 8PM

Preview of Merman's new show "Bad Heroine!" 

 

Flogging Molly

Joy Theater, 8:30PM

Celtic punk, feat. Skinny Lister

 

Edwardian Ball Circus Soirée

One Eyed Jacks, 9PM

Artist mixer before Saturday's Edwardian Ball

 

Kanye's Universe

Maple Leaf Bar, 10PM

Chapter Soul hosts a Kanye West dance party

 

Anglo a Go-Go

Bar Redux, 10PM

All-British dance party

 

Relapse 80s/90s Dance Party

Hi-Ho Lounge, 10PM

Party like it's 1999

SAMEDI

March 25th

Brunch Fest

Crescent Park, 10AM

Eat to benefit LA/SPCA

 

Princess, Ponies & Superheroes 

Fair Grounds, 12PM

Family day at the grounds

 

Tank and the Bangas

The Yum Yum, 6PM

NPR faves come home from tour

 

Movie Screening: But I'm a Cheerleader

St. Mark's Church, 6PM

Caravan Cinema screens this Natasha Lyonne comedy

 

Charlie Wilson

Smoothie King Center, 7PM

Feat. Fantasia and Johnny Gill

 

Chris Rock

The Saenger Theatre, 7PM

Comedy superstar brings his "Total Blackout" tour to NOLA

 

Biz Markie

House of Blues, 7PM

80s vs. 90s - decades collide

 

Fleur de Tease

One Eyed Jack's, 8PM

FdT stages "Alice in Wonderland" 

 

Pancakes and Booze Art Show

The Howlin' Wolf, 8PM

NOLA's underground art show, plus free pancakes

 

The Rock and Roll Extravaganza

The Willow, 9PM

Masquerade ball with live music

 

Mod Dance Party

The Circle Bar, 10PM

Sweat to the oldies with DJ Matty

 

Daria & The Hip Drips

Le Bon Temps Roule, 11PM

Free show to move and groove

DIMANCHE

March 26th

Bloody Mary Fest

Howlin' Wolf, 12PM

Over a dozen NOLA spots offer their best bloodies, plus food

 

Alternative Medicine Symposium

Magnolia Yoga Studio, 1PM

Free female-led discussion and open house

 

Red

Playmakers Theater, 2PM

Final staging of drama about painter Mark Rothko

 

Jamie Galloway Crawfish Boil

Maple Leaf Bar, 3PM

5th annual boil commemorating the life of the beloved chef and musician

 

LGBT Spring Fest

Woonderland Production Studios, 3PM

Live music, drinks, water slides, more

 

Music Under the Oaks

Audubon Park, 5PM

LPO Woodwind Quintet performs

 

Palmetto Bug Stompers 

d.b.a., 6PM

Local trad jazz masters

 

Board Game Night

Tubby & Coo's Mid-City  Book Shop, 6PM

Bring games, or join one at the store

 

Hot 8 Brass Band

Howlin’ Wolf Den, 10PM

Mix of brass standards and funky covers

 

Pat Casey & the New Sound

Spotted Cat, 10PM

Boundary pushing fusion jazz

 

Joe Krown Trio

Maple Leaf, 10PM

Krown on the B3 with Russell Batiste and Walter “Wolfman” Washington


On the Absent Pulitzer

Room 220: An Interview witn Susan Larson



As chairperson of the jury that nominates finalists for the Pulitzer Prize in Fiction, Susan Larson was in a unique position to observe the notable omission of a prize in the category this year. Room 220 caught up with the local literary maven to talk about the Pulitzer committee's non-decision, and the Pulitzer process.

 

Citing a failure to achieve consensus, the Pulitzer Prize committee declined to award a prize in the category of fiction this year for the first time since 1977. This decision has generated a lively debate within the American literary community over the impact of the prize—on authors as well as publishers—and its significance for contemporary American readers.

 

Susan Larson, former books editor of the Times-Picayune and host of The Reading Life on WWNO, has twice chaired the independent jury charged with narrowing down the many titles submitted to be considered for a Pulitzer. The jury chooses three nominations to send for judgment to the Pulitzer committee, which selects the year’s winner—or doesn’t.

 

The three finalist’s for this year’s unawarded Pulitzer were Swamplandia! by Karen Russell,The Pale King by David Foster Wallace, and Train Dreams by Denis Johnson.

 

Larson spoke with Room 220 recently about her thoughts on the lack of an award this year, as well as her experience working (and reading) as a fiction critic in New Orleans.

 

Room 220: How did your years as the books editor of the Times- Picayune prepare you for your position on the fiction jury?

 

Susan Larson: My work at the Times-Picayune gave me incredible discipline as a reader—I’ve read almost a book a day for most of my adult life—as well as a good overview of American fiction, the ability to work under pressure, and of course, it instilled confidence in my choices.

 

Rm 220: Besides simply working through the sheer volume of fiction submissions, what do you think was the most challenging aspect of the jury process?

 

SL: I first chaired the fiction jury in 2009, so there were no surprises this time around—except at the end, of course! The great reward of this work is the process, and sharing the experience with my fellow jurors—this year they were Maureen Corrigan, a critic I so admire, and Michael Cunningham, one of my favorite novelists.

 

Working through the sheer volume of submissions is the most challenging part. What many people don’t realize is that a number of the submissions are self-published books that take up an enormous amount of time and rarely measure up to Pulitzer standards.

 

Our group hit its stride fairly early. My previous group of jurors—Richard Dillard and Nancy Pearl—worked through email. This time, we worked primarily via conference call. The three of us had one meeting early on, in Washington, D.C., during the National Book Festival. We talked about the first round of submissions we’d read over the summer, as well as our favorite books, so we had a good sense of what we were bringing to the table. As a veteran, one of my biggest contributions was the assurance that yes, it was possible: the books would all get read, and we would come up with three finalists. You really operate with a heightened sense of alertness doing this work—you have to bring your best self to the reading, to the conversation. Our meetings and exchanges were some of the most intense, rewarding and inspiring conversations I have ever had about literature. I will treasure them for the rest of my life.

 

Rm220: What were the particular qualities or themes you were looking for when approaching a submission, and what do you think distinguished the three novels that the jury ultimately selected?

 

SL: There’s always that Pulitzer ideal lurking in the back of your mind when you’re doing this reading. It’s directed, devotional, meditative, purposeful reading, because the prize has such history and staying power. But we weren’t looking for themes! All of us were looking for inventive and powerful language, compelling characters, and masterful storytelling—books that crackled with energy and life. These three finalists possess that in abundance. The Pale King, while unfinished, still seems to me an American masterpiece. I believe it was Michael who said, “There’s not a bum line in the book.” Train Dreams is simply an exquisite tale of the American West—there are scenes in that book that will haunt me forever. And Swamplandia!—all I have to do is hear the title and I am immediately transported to that vivid landscape. The three books are so different from one another, such fine representatives of the array of talent in American writing.

 

Rm220: Was there anything about Swamplandia! that appealed to you personally, given your career as a book editor in the South and the novel’s Southern Gothic style?

 

 

SL: Oh, yes. Swamplandia! was one of my favorite novels of the year. I loved its grand ambition—it’s a truly great American tall tale. Ava Bigtree is such an engaging character, and her losses are so real, so total. And yet she has such spirit! The book is marked by such love of landscape—how heartbreaking it is to read “The swamp is writing her own suicide note.” That’s certainly something that speaks to all of us who live in Louisiana, isn’t it? I can’t wait to read what Karen Russell writes next.

 

 

Rm220: There are some who may interpret the lack of an award as a comment on the state of contemporary American literature. In your opinion, what role does the Pulitzer Prize play in the world of literary fiction and how should the Committee’s decision be viewed by the American reader?

 

SL: I don’t believe the board was trying to send a message about the state of contemporary American literature. I hope that they were just bound by their own rules and were unable to bend. It’s such an important prize—and usually it means the book has staying power. I loved the conversations I had with readers after the jury I worked with in 2009 selected Olive Kitteridge, by Elizabeth Strout, for the prize.This year, the conversations about the process have eclipsed the wonder of the books themselves. There are so many book clubs devoted to Pulitzer choices—everyone loves to debate their merits, predict outcomes, and suggest alternate choices. And these days, anything that drives a large readership to a particular book seems nothing short of a miracle. The best possible spin an American reader can put on this decision is that she should read all three books and decide for herself.

 

One of the things that surprised me the most on Monday was the public’s—and much of the media’s—misapprehension of the way the process works. Many seemed to think that the jury awarded the prize. The jury submits three finalists to the board in an unranked report. The jurors actually find out the result at the same time everyone else does.

 

Rm220: What other novels would you recommend from 2011 that didn’t make the final three? Were there any New Orleans authors up for consideration?

 

SL: Due to the confidential nature of the work, I don’t think I should comment on what other books were nominated. Speaking strictly for myself, among the books I admired most last year were Diana Abu-Jaber’s Birds of Paradise, Russell Banks’ The Lost Memory of Skin, Kevin Brockmeier’s The Illumination (a special favorite), Teju Cole’s Open City, Chad Harbach’s Art of Fielding, Julie Otsuka’s The Buddha in the Attic, Ann Patchett’s State of Wonder, Tom Perrotta’s The Leftovers, Hector Tobar’s Barbarian Nurseries, Justin Torres’We the Animals, Amy Waldman’s The Submission, Jesmyn Ward’s Salvage the Bones (one of the remarkable novels inspired by the events of Hurricane Katrina).

 

Rm220: What are your thoughts on the tradition of literary fiction in New Orleans and do you still see the city as an incubator for literary thought and expression?

 

SL: It just keeps on coming, doesn’t it? Natives come of age, turn to writing, render their experiences; writers come to town, settle down, stake out a literary neighborhood and bring it to life; other writers drift through, visiting for short or extended stays, and take away something that later comes to light in a surprising way. New Orleans is a kind of True South on the literary compass—its allure remains strong. And in these post-Katrina years, everyonein the city has a sense of story, a hard-won tale of their own. We all have a stake in our urban narrative. That’s a rare quality in a city, to value the shared story, to collaborate in the large sense of public creativity. No end in sight!

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Contributors:

Evan Z.E. Hammond, Dead Huey, Andrew Smith

Listings Editor


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