Cards and Cars in Paris and New Orleans

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Cards and Cars in Paris and New Orleans

I recently finished Wendell Pierce’s moving memoir of Katrina and New Orleans, The Wind in the Reeds (2015) and intend to soon blog about it in more detail. But already passages from Pierce as well as from Houellebecq’s Submission (2015) concerning the differences in mobility and mentality for Americans and Europeans has set my mind a pondering…. trying to stitch together meaning of previous thoughts on trials and travel….

JAQUES: It is a melancholy of mine own, compounded of many simples, extracted from many objects, and indeed the sundry’s contemplation of my travels, in which my often rumination wraps me m a most humorous sadness.

ROSALIND: A traveller! By my faith, you have great reason to be sad: I fear you have sold your own lands to see other men’s; then, to have seen much and to have nothing, is to have rich eyes and poor hands.

JAQUES: Yes, I have gained my experience.

ROSALIND: And your experience makes you sad: I had rather have a fool to make me merry than experience to make me sad; and to travel for it too!

–Shakespeare[1]

 The closest thing Americans have to an identity card is their driver’s license—a card that gives them license to drive into the blue yonder and there discover who they are and can be.

–Yi-Fu Tuan[2]

My father’s mantra kept going through my head, strengthening my resolve: “You can’t get lost in America.”

–Wendell Pierce[3]

No one could have appreciated that generosity more than I did, as I received my rations of celery remoulade and cod purce, each in its little compartment of the metal hospital tray issued by the Bullier student cafeteria (whose unfortunate patrons clearly had nowhere else to go, and had obviously been kicked out of all the acceptable student cafeterias, but who still had their student IDs––you couldn’t take away their student IDs), and I thought of Huysman’s epithets—the woebegone cheese, the grievous sole—and imagined what he might make of those metal cells, which he’d never known, and I felt a little bit less unhappy, a little bit less alone, in the Bullier student cafeteria.

–Michel Houellebecq[4]

NOTES

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[1] Shakespeare, As You Like It, IV, i.”

[2] Tuan, Yi-Fu. “Place/Space, Ethnicity/Cosmos: How to be More Fully Human.” Why Place MattersGeography, Identity, and Civic Life in Modern America. Edited by McClay and Ted V. McAllister. NY: New Atlantis Books. 2014. p. 115.

[3] Pierce, Wendell. The Wind in the Reeds: A Storm, a Play, and the City that would not be Broken. NY: Riverhead Books. 2015. pp. 126, 239.

[4] Houellebecq, Michel. Sounmission. (Submission.) Translated by Lorin Stein. NY: Farrar, Straus and Giroux. 2015. p. 6.

 


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