Susurrus OR Heart Like Water
Susurrus. When I was a young school boy, one of the things I loved about reading new and unfamiliar books was that they inevitably increased my vocabulary by sending me running for the big dictionary to look up words I’d never seen before. These days that doesn’t seem to happen very often, but very early on in reading Joshua Clark’s Heart Like Water, a memoir of his experiences remaining in New Orleans during and after hurricane Katrina, I found myself grabbing the laptop, opening a Merriam Webster search type in my Firefox toolbar and looking up “susurrus“, a word I’m quite certain I had not seen before. Click on either instance of the word to see the definition, I’m not going to give it up here.
A lesson that was considerably harder for me to learn than “Obscure Vocabulary Words” is that “Nobody Likes A Smart Ass”. To wit, using obscure words that are not essential to your thesis in order to impress your audience that you know words they don’t often comes across as rude and tends to alienate listeners. Or in this case readers. Clark refers to himself as a writer and journalist, though from reading his memoir it seems clear to me that he has primarily made his way in the Crescent City as a bartender. In my humble opinion, his memoir would have been a lot stronger had he written it as “a bar tender who worked in the French Quarter”, rather than as a “journalist”. (In his dust jacket photo, the author appears to be a pale, blonde big guy who looks like a mean, scary country boy to me.)
While I am intensely interested in reading any and all accounts of people who were in New Orleans just before, during and after the storm that will replace old hurricane Betsy when locals folks warn their children about the dangers of hurricanes, I often found my sympathies mostly with Clark’s girl friend, with whom he has a falling out soon after Katrina passed when she is anxious to find work and get on with their lives and Clark spends his days exploring the flooded zones with some rag tag friends. Frankly I cheered when she dumped his ass and moved to Memphis to take a job in her field. For those who like me will always think of themselves first and foremost as New Orleanians, even if we no longer live there, Heart Like Water is mildly Recommended. If you are not a die hard New Orleanian or huge fan of the city, I would suggest waiting for a better memoir to come along. Not Generally Recommended. Buy now $17.50