THE FINANCIAL TIMES LTD 2011 FT
July 23, 2011 1:01 am
The New Atlantis
Review by Mike Hobart
John Swenson places musicians at the heart of the reconstruction
of New Orleans
When Hurricane Katrina swept away New Orleans’ levees in 2005, it left behind a
wasteland of wrecked lives and sodden properties. The rebuilding was left to
ravaged communities facing gangland violence and official apathy.
Beyond the tourist traps, entire communities coalesced around music, from marching
bands to the clandestine Mardis Gras Indians, and Swenson’s graphic account places
musicians at the heart of the city’s reconstruction. The musicians drifted back, rebuilt
their homes and began performing, remaking the city’s musical scene.
The eloquent central narrative beautifully evokes New Orleans, alongside interviews
with those who, like the Neville Brothers and Big Chief Monk Boudreaux, lived through
the deluge, scraped out the sludge and faced down the National Guard. The book ends
with the New Orleans Saints winning 2010’s Superbowl, the prestigious Jazz Fest in full
swing – and the city’s future still in the balance.
The New Atlantis: Musicians Battle for the Survival of New Orleans, by John
Swenson, OUP, RRP £17.99, 304 pages