Tuesday, August 11, 2020

"Last Call on Decatur Street"

Iris Martin Cohen grew up in the French Quarter of New Orleans. She holds an MFA from Columbia University and studied Creative Nonfiction at the Graduate Center, CUNY. She is the author of The Little Clan (2018).

She applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Last Call on Decatur Street, and reported the following:
From page 69:
It was spring, and we were on our way to jog the paved running track of Audubon Park. City Park was closer to both our houses but in our recent attempt at taming the growing lumps and curves of our teenage bodies, the track felt more official. The Uptown ladies speed-walking in pearls and sweating out last nights’ white wine, the rich Tulane kids in drum circles on the ground, the neat landscaping and broad two-mile path broken up with funny 80’s pull-up bars and exercise stations, it just made us feel both fancy and athletic, two feelings we both found hard to come by, and considered worth the drive.
I think this passage is representative of the book in that it describes a taxonomy of New Orleans of society, the way it uses the physical specifics of a place to draw out larger questions of class and race and exclusion. This particular section does have a teenage narrator which most of the book does not, although the novel does make different stops along the course of my main character’s growing up. Most of the book that is not in flashback takes place over a single night when she is a young adult so maybe those pages tell you more about the book. It’s hard to say.

A large part of this novel is Rosemary revisiting memories of her friendship with Gaby and trying to piece together, or failing to realize, what went wrong in their relationship and the ways that race and white supremacy and her own complicity in unjust systems have taken their toll. Page 69, a scene of the two of them jogging together as teenagers gives you a sense of the love these two girls share but also hints at the larger problems in the society they live in. I wanted to give a kaleidoscopic view of my city, from spring afternoons in the fancy parts of town, to midnight in a dive bar, to lazy summer days in the girls’ working class neighborhoods, a fancy French quarter Mardi Gras ball and more, and I think this page shows one of these snapshots.
Visit Iris Martin Cohen's website.

Q&A with Iris Martin Cohen.

--Marshal Zeringue