As the editors at Art Practical and Daily Serving get ready to take their end-of-summer vacations, we find ourselves swapping reading lists—the articles we’ll dive into once have some uninterrupted time to catch up on what our colleagues have been writing. We’ve gotten so excited about what’s on our lists that we want to share them with our readers. Between now and Labor Day, Daily Serving will feature the efforts of our fellow chroniclers of art and culture as part of our Summer Reading series. Today, from our friends at Pelican Bomb, we are pleased to present “Mapping New Orleans: The Broadsides of Unfathomable City,” in which Ben Morris reviews the book Unfathomable City: A New Orleans Atlas. This review was originally published on June 5, 2014. Many thanks to the editors at Pelican Bomb for their help in making this series possible. Enjoy!
When Unfathomable City: A New Orleans Atlas (University of California Press) appeared this past autumn, outlets and reviewers across the country praised its efforts to capture the complexity of life in the Crescent City. Part of the appeal, as with its sister publication for San Francisco, focused on the atlas’s detailed visual component. Accompanying the essays by writers and scholars such as Richard Campanella, Antonia Juhasz, and Joel Dinerstein were hand-crafted maps of the city drawn by a team of expert cartographers and artists, maps as meticulously researched as any of the texts.
The editors of Unfathomable City, Rebecca Solnit and Rebecca Snedeker, have maintained that the two components of the book function much like hydrogen and oxygen in water: Together they make one element, but individually they have their own important properties, histories, and purposes. To further highlight these singularities, this spring Solnit and Snedeker reissued four of the maps as independently published broadsides with condensed versions of their accompanying essays. Partnering with the New Orleans Museum of Art, A Studio in the Woods, and others for a series of public and semi-public events, the hope is that the dissemination of these broadsides, as arguments and expositions in their own right, will sponsor a wider conversation about issues in New Orleans’ artistic and cultural life, and the ways in which our culture informs our history, our politics, and our urban footprint.