Tag Archives: Rheta Grimsley Johnson

Bragging on book, music and film friends

Barb recently won second place for fiction in the most recent Barnes and Noble Discover Awards. If you haven’t already, you really should read her book of stories More of This World or Maybe Another. Phenomenal.

Was at the local Borders recently and unexpectedly saw my friend Lindsay Rae Spurlock‘s cd on the shelves. I had to be silly and snap a picture because I was so proud. She’s been doing pretty well for herself – touring a lot and her song “November” has been featured a few times on MTV’s The Real World.

Rheta Grimsley Johnson’s newest, Enchanted Evening Barbie and the Second Coming: A Memoir, is available. When I interviewed her about Poor Man’s Provence, she told me about this and it sounds hilarious and compulsively readable. Nicest lady ever and incredibly talented, so check it out.

Oh, just as I’m writing this, I got an email from Amy Serrano about her film The Sugar Babies and a screening at Prytania Theater on Thursday. From the website: “The Sugar Babies examines the moral price of sugar –present and past — from the perspective of the conditions surrounding the children of sugar cane cutters of Haitian ancestry in the Dominican Republic, and the continuing denial of their basic human rights.” Purchase the movie and check out the screening schedule.

My friend David Loti’s cd Amalgam is out. Loti is a fascinating, talented guy, who was in the popular Baton Rouge band A Soup Named Stew before going solo and going up to Vancouver for seminary school. It’s a weird thing to say, but I mean it as a compliment – I continually forget that I know Loti as I’m listening to the cd. He sounds both like and unlike himself, to me, as his friend. It’s a great cd. You can listen to several of the songs online, so check it out.

And here’s some fun silliness for you. Terri, of Peauxdunque fame (where I also met Amy), had a back-and-forth with Neil Gaiman via Twitter about the local restaurant Green Goddess. Gourmands may know one of Green Goddess’s chefs Chris DeBarr for his own achievements. But literary folks like me know him as Poppy Z. Brite’s husband. Well, having eaten at Green Goddess with the Peauxdunque gang, I now know him as both chef and literary husband. Yum!

@neilhimself Lunch tomorrow at Green Goddess, NOLA. Jealous? 4:08 PM Mar 2nd

@TerriSusannah very much so. Mention the Mezze of Destruction and something nice might happen. about 1 hours ago in reply to TerriSusannah

 

@neilhimself If I could pronounce it, I would! 4:21 PM Mar 2nd

 

After seeing this back-and-forth, I followed Neil Gaiman on Twitter and was ecstatic when he talked about The Magnetic Fields, one of my favorite bands, and posted pics from behind-the-scenes at their Milwaukee show. I knew that Stephin Merritt (of The Magnetic Fields) was friends with David Handler, aka Lemony Snicket, but didn’t know about the Fields-Gaiman  connection.

@neilhimself: so jealous u’r seeing The Magnetic Fields & having lunch w Claudia! But I had lunch @ Green Goddess yesterday w @TerriSusannah

@emofalltrades jealous back. Did you ask for the mezze of destruction? 3 minutes ago in reply to emofalltrades

@neilhimself: we did! I took a picture – @TerriSusannah will probably post soon. Thank you for the code words. It was a wonderful lunch.

And just so I can end on an incredibly light, sweet (but slightly sour) note, I’d like to announce (from the rooftops, really) that Pinkberry is opening a New Orleans location!! You might remember that I begged Pinkberry to open a New Orleans location in a 2008 post after I visited New York. But Pinkberry, whhhhhhhhhhhhhhy aren’t you open yet?

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Cajun singing, hellacious road trips and new jobs

My only excuse is that I’ve been very, very busy. There was a trip to Baton Rouge, then a turn around back to New Orleans with an interview the next morning, followed immediately by a long drive to see my family (made longer by a lovely visit all together with my sister and her son on the way). The short stay with my parents was abbreviated by a hellacious trip back to New Orleans (read: an extra two hours) and I began a new job the next day. Whew.

However, I’m not just whining. I do have a gift for you.

In Baton Rouge, I caught the Baton Rouge One Book One Community (there is a New Orleans version of OBOC) event, which featured Rheta Grimsley Johnson (whom I have written about before, recently) talking about her book Poor Man’s Provence. We were a lucky, lucky audience that night because not only did we get Rheta (more than enough for any audience), but she brought with her Helene Boudreaux (who sang for a while before Rheta spoke) and Jeanette and Johnelle, all of whom feature vividly in the book. (Read it, so you’ll know what I’m talking about. If you’ve read it, you know what I’m talking about).

I got to meet up with great friends of mine at the event, Susan and Larry Broussard, and when all was said and done, when the volunteers were packing up and the audience had mostly gone, it was just the Cajun Contingent left and sure enough, Helene and Larry found that one French song they knew in common and started singing.

Finally figured out how to get the video on here – my first YouTube video! And here’s a bonus present, a picture of Rheta and I together. And don’t forget, you have the 225 piece to look forward to, yet!100_6586b

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No need for fiction in Poor Man’s Provence

A while ago, I was assigned a story for 225 that included interviewing an author by telephone. I’d read her book and really enjoyed it and was very nervous at first (she’s a journalist! syndicated!), but she was so warm and genuine that I quickly felt like I was talking to an old friend. It was a wonderful conversation and yielded QUITE a lot more than I needed for my short piece. I also found out that the piece was going to run in the magazine after her appearance in Baton Rouge, so I asked my editor if I could do a companion piece here to encourage folks to read her book and go to the author event at which she’ll appear.

So, the deets.

The book is called Poor Man’s Provence and its author’s name is Rheta Grimsley Johnson. Her book was selected as Baton Rouge’s fall One Book One Community selection. This is a great program where community partners encourage all of Baton Rouge to read the same book twice a year and  provides tools and events for community dialogue. I encourage all of you, whether you live in Baton Rouge or not, to read this book, which is about Rheta’s experience of being more than a tourist but not quite a local of Henderson, Louisiana, deep in Cajun Country. The book has very short, engaging chapters and is a very fast, fascinating read, no matter how much you know about Henderson or Cajun culture.

One of the things that Rheta said that struck me most deeply, but I wasn’t able to work into the 225 piece was, “In the south, there’s no need for fiction. The truth is so rich.” As a fiction writer, I chose to see this as hyperbole, but it also strikes me as utterly true. No matter how strange our fiction is, it never can quite compare to the truth of the idiosyncratic way of life around us and the best novelists, in my opinion, write unbearably true things about people that just happened to not exist completely before they wrote about them.

Rheta’s voice vibrated with passion whenever she spoke with me about Henderson and the friends she made there and she writes that way about them, as well. It’s easy to feel like you’ve made a whole batch of new friends as you’re reading.

After you’ve read the book, go see Rheta speak August 20th at 7 p.m. at the Cox Communications Building on the LSU campus. When I asked if any of the “characters” (in more ways than one) would attend the event with her, she said she’d ask them if they’d like to. Regardless, Rheta will be there and so will many readers ready to discuss this incredible book. Good times will be had.

1588382184 300dpiRheta jacket photo crop

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