I write to extol 1 DEAD IN ATTIC: AFTER KATRINA, by Chris Rose, just released by Simon & Schuster. Chris Rose is a columnist for the Times-Picayune newspaper in New Orleans. Before Katrina, his column covered celebrities, entertainment and popular culture, with a humorous focus. After Katrina, he left his family in Maryland, where they had evacuated before the storm, and returned alone to New Orleans. He sweated, he struggled, he sorrowed, and he suffered like the rest of us in the days and weeks after the apocalypse. Writing about New Orleans’ struggle to recover from devastation, he recounted his own experiences, feelings, and despair in lucid and colorful words that brought tears to our eyes. He underwent a breakdown, falling into a pit of desperation out of which he struggled to climb. He was honest with us: after disappearing from the newspaper’s pages for weeks, he explained what had happened to him, and how he was recovering. He started back with his column, gradually reinserting the humor for which he had been known pre-Katrina. He kept on keepin’ on. We enjoyed his columns before Katrina, but we grew to idolize him for his post-Katrina essays. He wasn’t born here, he didn’t grow up here, but he knows and understands this city and its people as well as we know ourselves. He is one of us.
Five months after the storm, he self-published a book that collected his columns from September through December 2005, the first four months post-Katrina. He began selling it out of the trunk of his car, sharing the proceeds with a couple of charitable foundations. In a little more than a year, he sold 60,000 copies—extraordinary numbers for a self-published book. As he began planning to self-publish a sequel, Simon & Schuster contacted him. S&S repackaged 1 DEAD IN ATTIC in a new edition, adding what had been planned as the sequel as part of the book. The new version now includes a selection of his columns from right after Katrina through sixteen months post-Katrina—that is, from September 2005 through December 2006.
This is how Simon & Schuster blurbs the new edition:
1 Dead in Attic is a collection of stories by Times-Picayune columnist Chris Rose, recounting the first harrowing year and a half of life in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. Celebrated as a local treasure and heaped with national praise, Rose provides a rollercoaster ride of observation, commentary, emotion, tragedy, and even humor -- in a way that only he could find in a devastated wasteland.
They are stories of the dead and the living, stories of survivors and believers, stories of hope and despair. And stories about refrigerators.
1 Dead in Attic freeze-frames New Orleans, caught between an old era and a new, during its most desperate time, as it struggles out of the floodwaters and wills itself back to life.
Last night I attended a library program at which Chris Rose spoke and read from the new book. In a large meeting room—actually two rooms combined—he had a standing-room-only audience, which gave him an ovation as he walked into the room. He spoke a little, showed a wonderful and deeply saddening DVD of post-Katrina photos by his friend Charlie Varley, read two essays from his book, spoke a bit more, then spent almost two hours signing books for the huge crowd. He was to leave New Orleans today to appear on the Oprah show tomorrow—Wednesday, August 29, the two-year anniversary of Katrina—along with other locals, to speak about New Orleans after Katrina. (He says the Oprah people won’t allow him to mention his book, however.)
Oh, I almost forgot to tell you: He was runner-up for an individual Pulitzer Prize in 2006, and also shared in the group Pulitzer awarded to the Times-Picayune for its coverage of Katrina-related events.
If he comes to speak near you, go to hear him. He’s a terrific speaker, and has a profound story to tell. He’s funny, too. You can learn more about the book at the publisher’s website and at the Chris Rose website. Apparently he does not have a publisher-sponsored book tour, but his own website lists the following appearances:
- Murder by the Book (Houston, TX), Thursday August 30, 2007 7pm; for more information call (713)524-8597
- Barnes & Noble (Westheimer Rd. Houston, TX), Friday August 31, 2007 7pm; for more information call (713)783-6016
- AJC Book Fest (Atlanta, GA), Sunday September 1 & 2, 2007; more information to come
- Ole Miss (Oxford, MS), Tuesday September 4, 2007 1pm; for more information call (662)915-5896
- Square Books (Oxford, MS), Tuesday September 4, 2007 5pm; for more informaton call (662)236-2262
- Reed's Gum Tree Books (Tupelo, MS), Wednesday September 5, 2007 12pm; for more information call (662)620-0838
- Turn Row Books (Greenwood, MS), Wednesday September 5, 2007 5:30pm; for more information call (662)453-5995
- Lemuria Books (Jackson, MS), Thursday September 6, 2007 5pm; for more information call (601)366-7619
- Page & Palette (Fairhope, AL), Friday September 7, 2007 6pm; for more information call (251)928-5295
- Baton Rouge Gallery (Baton Rouge, LA), Sunday September 9, 2007 4pm; for more informaton call (225)383-1470
- Books-A-Million (Hattiesburg, MS), Tuesday September 11, 2007 7pm; for more information call (601)583-8612
- Louisiana Book Fest (Baton Rouge, LA), Saturday November 3, 2007