In ten years of serving as a correspondent and selling his writing in such periodicals as the "New Orleans Daily Item," "Times-Democrat," "Harper's Weekly," and "Scribner's Magazine" he crystallized the way Americans view New Orleans and its south Louisiana environs. Hearn was prolific, producing colorful and vivid sketches, vignettes, news articles, essays, translations of French and Spanish literature, book reviews, short stories, and woodblock prints.
He haunted the French Quarter to cover such events as the death of Marie Laveau. His descriptions of the seamy side of New Orleans, tainted with voodoo, debauchery, and mystery made a lasting impression on the nation. Denizens of the Crescent City and devotees who flock there for escapades and pleasures will recognize these original tales of corruption, of decay and benign frivolity, and of endless partying. With his writing, Hearn virtually invented the national image of New Orleans as a kind of alternative reality to the United States as a whole.
S. Frederick Starr, a leading authority on New Orleans and Louisiana culture, edits the volume, adding an introduction that places Hearn in a social, historical, and literary context.
Hearn was sensitive to the unique cultural milieu of New Orleans and Louisiana. During the decade that he spent in New Orleans, Hearn collected songs for the well-known New York music critic Henry Edward Krehbiel and extensively studied Creole French, making valuable and lasting contributions to ethnomusicology and linguistics.
Hearn's writings on Japan are famous and have long been available. But "Inventing New Orleans: Writings of Lafcadio Hearn" brings together a selection of Hearn's nonfiction on New Orleans and Louisiana, creating a previously unavailable sampling. In these pieces Hearn, an Anglo-Greek immigrant who came to America by way of Ireland, is alternately playful, lyrical, and morbid. This gathering also features ten newly discovered sketches. Using his broad stylistic palette, Hearn conjures up a lost New Orleans which later writers such as William Faulkner and Tennessee Williams used to evoke the city as both reality and symbol.
Lafcadio Hearn (1850-1904) was a prolific writer, critic, amateur engraver, and journalist. His many books-on a diverse range of subjects-include "La Cuisine Creole: A Collection of Culinary Recipes" (1885), "Gombo Zhebes" (1885), "Chita" (1889), and "Glimpses of Unfamiliar Japan" (1894).
S. Frederick Starr is chair of the Central Asia-Caucasus Institute at Johns Hopkins University. His previous writings on Louisiana culture include "New Orleans Unmasqued" (1989), "Southern Comfort: The Garden District of New Orleans" (1998), and "Louis Moreau Gottschalk" (2000).
S. Frederick Starr is chair of the Central Asia-Caucasus Institute at John Hopkins University. He is the author of numerous books on New Orleans, including "New Orleans Unmasqued; Southern Comfort: The Garden District of New Orleans;" and "Louis Moreau Gottschalk". He edited "Inventing New Orleans: Writings of Lafcadio Hearn", published by University Press of Mississippi.
Into this great western metropolis came young Lafcadio Hearn, who after several tentative starts became a newspaper reporter first for the Enquirer and then for the Commercial. Drawn to the Ohio River by his interest in the unusual, Hearn found beneath the rough surface of levee life a kind of cosmopolitan tolerance which emphasized the essential humanity of the community.
Hearn's twelve sketches -- here reprinted as a unit for the first time -- are perceptive and sympathetic, yet not highly subjective and romanticized. Collectively they form an important comprehensive picture of African American life in a border city just after the Civil War. Among the earliest of his writings, they also foreshadow the course Hearn's life was to take in New Orleans, the West Indies, and finally Japan.