“Reading Madame Vieux Carré” copyright 2012 Kristin Fouquet
My week started off badly. Sprinting to the phone, I sprained my right gastrocnemius and found I could no longer stand or walk without assistance. As humbling an experience as it was, I decided to accept it as an opportunity to slow down and spend some time reading. I bought Madame Vieux Carré: The French Quarter of the Twentieth Century by Scott S. Ellis as a research book. I’m writing a novel set in the Quarter in 1961 and I thought the book would be a good resource. Well, it certainly was, but it became so much more for me.
While I have always loved the French Quarter of my hometown, New Orleans, I found myself falling more in love with her as I made my way through the pages of this book. Mr. Ellis did thorough research and even accounted personal experiences as an inhabitant of the neighborhood in the 1980s. As I hobbled back and forth on crutches between reading, I contemplated my own aging. I was a denizen of the Vieux Carré when I was ages 20-23 in the early 1990s. It was an impressionable time for me for many reasons and I felt emotionally safe in Madame’s world. One does not simply dwell in the French Quarter, one has a relationship with her. You become a character in her ever-changing play.
This book is a scholarly work of history, including endnotes in accordance with the Chicago Manual of Style. However, it is endlessly accessible with moments of great humor and eyewitness accounts. A large part of my affection for Madame Vieux Carré is my belief it was a labor of love. I do not know Mr. Ellis personally nor professionally, but the author writes with such eloquence and honesty, I make the assumption. Only several years shy of being three centuries old, Madame wears her beauty well. While I live Uptown, I will in the days to come be off of these crutches and once again visit the Vieux Carré. I will traverse her streets with a deeper love for knowing more of her secrets.
Madame Vieux Carré
January 20, 2012