What Fresh Hell? The Best of Levees Not War: Blogging on Post-Katrina New Orleans and America, 2005–2015
Mark LaFlaur, author
“What Fresh Hell?” brings together 10 years’ blogging on war and peace; politics and society in the Obama and Bush-Cheney years; infrastructure; and the environment in a time of extreme weather. The New Orleans–dedicated, New York–based blog Levees Not War was founded in 2005 after Hurricane Katrina, and now serves up liberal portions of sharp, spirited writing, grounded in a vision of the social contract—a society held together by honoring the Golden Rule—along with interviews with experts, tributes to activists and civil rights leaders, on-the-scene reporting from Occupy Wall Street, and more.
This collection of essays from novelist LaFlaur (Elysian Fields) is polished and refreshingly economical. The pieces, which recall Molly Ivins’s puckish cynicism, are taken from Levees Not War, LaFlaur’s blog. Due to their careful selection and organization, they have most of the strengths and few of the shortcomings of the blog form. LaFlaur, a Louisiana native, focuses primarily on Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath, which provides a clear lens through which to view the U.S.’s environmental fecklessness, crumbling infrastructure, and weakened social contract. LaFlaur’s treatment of post-Katrina Louisiana has singular impact, with sharp individual essays about recent Mardi Gras celebrations in New Orleans and the work of Louisiana State University’s hurricane center. LaFlaur also ventures out of his bailiwick to write about the war in Afghanistan and the American war machine in general. These pieces make cogent points about militarism, but are simply not as original, either in their reporting or their insights, as the rest of the book. Nonetheless, this is a work of provocative and exhilarating populism. The book includes a lengthy bibliography and some photographs. (BookLife)