Saturday, January 21, 2012

Sherwood Anderson on New Orleans

Spend even a short time experiencing the unique culture of New Orleans, as I did a couple years back, and you begin to appreciate what those who live there know in the core of their being, that it has an intangible quality which makes it conducive to the arts, and to an artistic view of life.  In 1922 the great writer and friend of William Faulkner, Sherwood Anderson, articulated this truth in his own way, in an essay aimed at encouraging other artists to come to New Orleans.  I came across it recently, and thought I would share it here.  Cheers.

I address these fellows.  I want to tell them of long quiet walks to be taken on the levee in back-of-town, where old ships, retired from service, thrust their masts up into the evening sky.  On the streets here the crowds have a more leisurely stride...I stick to my pronouncement that culture means first of all the enjoyment of life, leisure and a sense of leisure.  It means time for a play of the imagination over the facts of life, it means time and vitality to be serious about really serious things and a background of joy in life in which to refresh the tired spirits.
In a civilization where the fact becomes dominant, submerging the imaginative life, you will have what is dominant in the cities of Pittsburgh and Chicago today. 
When the fact is made secondary to the desire to live, to love, and to understand life, it may be that we will have in more American cities a charm of place such as one finds in the older parts of New Orleans now.

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