Let's Be Clear
In reference to "What's That Smell" (Cover, June 19), we are very disappointed that you mentioned The Road Home program in an article about political corruption. This is an inaccurate and unfair characterization. The program is the largest housing recovery program in history and is helping Louisiana residents rebuild their homes and lives. The program's funding deficit isn't because of any nefarious activity. It's because the combination of the anticipated damage, the number of applicants and the lack of private insurance were all much greater than expected. Furthermore, The Road Home program has been the subject of numerous federal and state audits. Never has the question of corruption in the management of the program entered the conversation.
Since it was funded in June 2006, The Road Home program has disbursed almost $2 billion to Louisiana homeowners. At its current pace, the program is on course to make all its payouts almost a year ahead of schedule. This huge, complex program is being administered for less than 10 cents on the dollar. That is less than most private nonprofit organizations require as overhead to allocate and distribute donations.
Director of Communications, The Road Home
What About Patty Friedmann?
I'm baffled. I've seen no mention of the first literary novel about Katrina in Gambit, so when I saw an article in the June 19 issue about writing in the storm's aftermath ("Angels in the Mud," News & Views), I was sure it would be mentioned. But, no. A Little Bit Ruined is the latest by a writer who, probably better than any other since John Kennedy Toole, gets the New Orleans voice.
Patty Friedmann stayed through the storm, and this novel carries through the storm, still bearing Friedmann's trademark dark humor. Yet there's no inclusion of her work -- which was released in April -- in the Dinah Cardin piece. Cardin seemed focused a lot on French Quarter writers and festivals. Maybe she needed to range farther into where the natives are.
Yeah, What About Friedmann?
Dinah Cardin's "Angels in the Mud" (News & Views, June 19) might have aimed to augur well for literature coming out post-Katrina, but its tone was so lugubrious that it left me cold.
The few writers she found all seemed to want to speak in the same tired voice, the "poor us" voice, and her predictions seem to be that storm fiction is going to bore us with its efforts at depth of emotion plumbed from disaster. I was looking for the real New Orleans writers who understand the spirit of the city, the "color" to which Chris Wiltz does allude. I was sure Cardin would mention the one piece of literary fiction that actually has emerged since the storm, A Little Bit Ruined by Patty Friedmann, because it tells the world that we're still funny and ironic and not just licking our wounds. But she didn't. This is why everyone outside the city struggles with Katrina fatigue. Lighten up, and pay attention.
And What About All the Others
Within the realm of opportunity lie the seeds of opportunism and the fertile soil for opportunists. Your recent story, "Angels in the Mud" (News & Views, June 19), illustrates this.
In the nearly two years since Hurricane Katrina, writers from everywhere have swooped down on New Orleans like vultures, eagerly picking over the bones of our misfortune. Most of these writers -- Joshua Clark being a notable exception -- were not here during or immediately after the storm and dropped in after the worst had passed.
What about those of us who risked everything to stay here and record our observations for posterity? And what about those of us who [later] employed our writing skills toward promoting the good things New Orleans had to offer and getting interrupted publications and promotional agencies running again?
Little or nothing has been written on the good work that agencies like the New Orleans Tourism Marketing Corporation and the New Orleans Metropolitan Convention and Visitors Bureau -- and the writers they employ -- are doing to bring back tourism and convention businesses.
It's well and good to crow over the fact that we remain the same cultural and creative mecca we've always been when it comes to attracting those who feel the compulsion to write about how unique the city and its people are. It's another matter to glorify those who are little more than carpetbaggers and boom chasers. Those of us who are trying to trumpet the positive things about our city continue to be overshadowed by those who focus on the negative and continue to gobble up all the ink.
Hopefully, though, our efforts to get the good word out will prevail ... And New Orleans can continue to be the focal point for the creative energies of those writers who truly call the city their home and ... not those who came here for a lark and quickly shuttled back to where they came from after they got what they wanted from us.
Dean M. Shapiro