Today, I thought I’d go behind the scenes of River Road again, and talk about some New Orleans things that played into the book.
First, the Westbank. New Orleans is (I’m told) kind of like New York in that it’s not a single city but a conglomeration of individual neighborhoods, each with its own personality. Most of Orleans Parish (we have parishes instead of counties) lies on the “east bank” of the Mississippi River, between the river and the south shore of Lake Pontchartrain. A sliver of Orleans Parish–the neighborhood of Algiers, primarily–lies on the “west bank” of the river.
The reason I put “east” and “west” in quote marks is that, in New Orleans, directions are a joke. If you ask how to get somewhere, a local will tell you it’s “toward the lake” or “toward the river.” Because of the way the river winds through the city, and depending on where you are when asking directions, the place you’re looking for could actually be north, south, east, or west. Here’s what I mean.
You can see the blue of the lake up at the top of the image, and the ribbon of Mississippi River winding through the bottom. The yellowish portion of the map is Orleans Parish and, off to the southeast, you’d be able to travel into Plaquemines Parish.
So, the phenomenon of the “east bank” and the “west bank” is not actually a local’s way of telling direction. If you look at the map, the “east bank” is everything north of the river and the “westbank” is everything south of the river.
Adding to that confusion, New Orleans is not laid out on a grid. The streets tend to wind and curve to follow the river and sometimes change names. I lived on Carondelet Street in uptown. If you followed the street all the way through the CBD (central business district) and into the Quarter, when it crossed Canal Street its name changes to Bourbon Street.
Is it any wonder people have trouble finding their way around? DJ knows the area well, but Alex has gotten lost in each of the first two books. By the time Elysian Fields rolls around he seems to have gotten the hang of NOLA directions.
So….did you win a book this week? (And if you’re waiting for books from me, I know I sound like a broken record but I’m way way way behind in my mailings. I’ve also had some books purchased from Book Depository around the holidays just flat-out go missing (waves at Eli), so I don’t know what that deal was. I spend a huge amount of money on postage and books for this blog, so I’m going to have a talk with Mr. Book Depository and find out what the problem is.
If you see your name, please email me at suzannej3523 at gmail dot com and I’ll get you in my winners list.
MARISKA won The Madman’s Daughter.
ALLISON won Marie Brennan’s A Natural History of Dragons.
SULLIVAN McPIG won Revel.
Congrats to the winners!