A great story is a microcosm of humanity. A wise, accomplished writer with three names told me that recently. Call it a universal truth.
I’ve been thinking about this in the context of New Bayou Books. In the context of South Louisiana literature. What I’m up to with the company is trying to tease out the handful of truly special writers I’m convinced are out there, hiding out in the hot shadows of backyard sheds, brick buildings, and old maple trees. The reason I’m looking for them is because I want to read their work. I want to see the world–even if it’s an imaginary one . . . especially if it’s imaginary–the way they see it.
But this is a hard concept to convey. I’ve noticed that when some people hear “South Louisiana literature” they think folklore. As in flat bottomed boats, dirty shoes. That special gravy your grandma taught you to make. You know what I mean.
Except, that’s not really what I’m looking for. I’m interested in that more universal stuff–that microcosm of humanity–served up with Cajun spice in a modern context. The UL professor who gets involved with a student. The guy behind the massive “Lion’s Den Adult Superstore” billboards along I-10. The crawfish farmer who sells a little weed on the side. The zydeco musician who really just wants to rap.
It’s like, if a guy says he likes the blues and then you come back with the Robert Johnson box set–you know the one. It came out in the 90s, with that young photo-booth shot of Robert looking deadpan cool with that cigarette in his mouth–but really, what the guy’s looking for is something closer to Gary Clark Jr. It’s still just 12 bars. Just three chords and the truth. But there’s distortion. Some reverb. Some grit, and not a little bit of anger in there too. That’s the blues I’m talking about.