". . . But the past does not exist independently from the present. Indeed, the past is only past because there is a present, just as I can point to something over there only because I am here. But nothing is inherently over there or here. In that sense, the past has no content. The past -- or more accurately, pastness -- is a position. Thus, in no way can we identify the past as past." p. 15

". . . But we may want to keep in mind that deeds and words are not as distinguishable as often we presume. History does not belong only to its narrators, professional or amateur. While some of us debate what history is or was, others take it into their own hands." p. 153

Silencing the Past: Power and the Production of History (1995) by Michel-Rolph Trouillot

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

New Orleans is NOT Charm City

Baltimore is "Charm City."  There's a specific history as to how Baltimore came to be called Charm City, which I know, because I have right here, the book, Charm City (2007), by our friend, Madison Smartt Bell, who tells us the history of that appellation in that book.

So why in hell did the author of a very long article in the current New York Review of Books about Simon's HBO New Orleans's Treme series, title that article "Charm City, U.S.A?"  He claims to belong by generational birth to New Orleans's aristocratic circles that began intermarrying with the old Creole families back in 1836.  So one would think he knows better.

My response to Lemann's article is cranky.  Decidedly cranky.  I don't like it, or the author, who seems to not quite get it, in spite of his Garden District aristocratic family and upbringing.

Example:  "Batiste’s ex-wife, LaDonna, played (overplayed, actually) by Khandi Alexander, owns a neighborhood bar."  LaDonna is overplayed? 

Another example: "Albert is the most saintly, and so perhaps the least plausible, character in Treme, a courageous political resister, rebuilder, and bearer of cultural tradition."   Yes. Saints always beat the living bejesus out of someone who steals their tools.

He thinks that the harangues by Davis and Creighton are overwrought. "What they say is always in character, but it seems to express some of what Simon thinks too. "  No, dude.  These harangues are what particularly white New Orleans was thinking then -- and not a few weeks post the Flood Failure, but three months later.  Out of touch, dude.

What universe does this dickhead inhabit?  Oh, yes, the universe of the wealthy aristocrat  personally unaffected by the hells of the Failure and the aftermath -- the universe that HBO Treme is NOT concerned with, except, on occasion to make fun of it, which he noticed.  Oh yes, did he ever notice. And resents the hell out of it.


K. said...

I'll cut Lemann some slack because he wrote Redemption.

Except for Khandi Alexander's acting, his points taken one-by-one are not off the Bell Curve, but they're also cherry picking. It took Steve Zahn a couple of episodes, for example, to find a rhythm. He was excellent once that happened.

Albert's saintliness is a bit hard to take at times, but he's also stubborn and has a difficult relationship with children who love him, respect him, and roll their eyes at him. That's one of the truest elements of the show.

Ten episodes of Treme reinforced my first impression: That the main character in the show is New Orleans and that everyone else serves to augment that in one way or another: They showed that New Orleans defines its people as much as the other way around. I thought the character of New Orleans deepened as the show progressed past the Katrina surface that everyone watching knew about. As a result, it got better and better -- it illustrated what was lost, why resilience matters, and why we need the city back.

WV: foxicray

Foxessa said...

But not, perhaps, a qualified critic of a television program that isn't part of his 'expertise?'

Love, C.

Audrey said...

I don't know New Orleans like you know New Orleans, having only been there four days this past August, for the first time, and only putting together the historical New Orleans through reading, Ned's books mostly, but other things I did watch Treme, some episodes more than once, and Albert is very real. I knew a man just like him. He always tried to do the right thing, but he did beat an inmate (he was a corrections officer) who came after him with a monkey wrench, and inmate he knew and liked (the inmate lived, more than lived actually) I think Albert is spot on. He's a moral compass and people get uncomfortable around moral compasses.

I have to talk to you and Ned one day about my four days down there. I wish to God I could afford to have a place down there to live and keep my apartment in NYC. As I wrote Ned--NOW I get it. And that was only after a few days.

K. said...

It only takes one visit! I've been entranced by the place since my wedding trip there in 1980.