Personal Essay Symposium 10/03/09: Chris Rose

Report by Sarah Manthey:

Chris Rose, local newspaperman turned spokesperson for post-Katrina New Orleans, half-read half-performed works from his book 1 Dead in Attic as the third contributor in the symposium on the personal essay. His book is a compilation of articles he published in The Times Picayune.

Rose began as a social columnist for the paper, but after Hurricane Katrina his column turned into more poignant pieces.  He attributed this transition to the transformation everyone was going through at the time.  For him writing acted as therapy the way that post-Katrina New Orleanians used talking as therapy.  “All anyone wanted to do for the first year after the storm was have someone listen to their story,” said Rose.  “I was able to get up on a soapbox and yell.”

Rose began the reading with a piece entitled “My Introduction to New Orleans” which described how, ironically, a hurricane during Thanksgiving break his sophomore year of college initially pushed him toward the city.  He read other essays such as “The City that Hair Forgot” wherein he links amusing vignettes to a larger message that to experience “a New Orleans moment” is not simply to walk down Bourbon Street but to delve into something much deeper and harder to describe.  The end of his piece begs the question: “Do you know what it means to miss New Orleans?”

In their discussion, Professor T.R. Johnson pointed out how similar his writing is to the way Rose talks.  Rose advised writers to read aloud their material, either to themselves or a friend. Much more than “regular newspaper fodder,” Rose’s column allowed him the opportunity to speak about extremely personal experiences in such a way that everyone could relate.  “I like to call it literature in a hurry,” said Rose.

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