Nine Lives: death and life in New Orleans.

Author:Baum, Dan
Position:NONFICTION - Book review


Nine Lives is expanded from a series of articles for the New Yorker by staff writer Dan Baum, who moved to New Orleans to cover the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Baum's previous books include Citizen Coors: An American Dynasty, and Smoke and Mirrors: The War on Drugs and the Politics of Failure.


THE TOPIC: New Orleans. A city wracked by the whims of Mother Nature and other ills, including crime, corruption, racism, and poverty. Two hurricanes more than four decades apart--Betsy, which stormed ashore in 1965, and the more recent Katrina--frame Nine Lives, a story told through the nine characters Dan Baum came to know in the wake of the recent destruction. There's a jaded cop, a transsexual bar owner, the city's reformed coroner, a high school band director, and a Mardi Gras "Rex," among others. Taken together, these unique, odd, and inspiring characters embody the striking and often painful contradictions in America's only "city-sized act of civil disobedience."

Spiegel & Grau. 335 pages. $26. ISBN: 038552319X

Los Angeles Times EXCELLENT

"Despite its brevity, Nine Lives resembles a vast Victorian novel in its many-sided evocation of an entire world--worlds, actually, because the New Orleans that Baum lovingly conjures belongs to people rooted in neighborhoods with strong traditions, each one a universe in itself. ... But this is not a book about calamity: It is a portrait of community, of people's passionate attachment to home and kin and friends." WENDY SMITH

New York Times EXCELLENT

"By the final third of Nine Lives, as the water begins pouring into the Lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans, I was weeping like an idiot in the coffee shop where I was reading. ... Mr. Baum's book clocks in at just a little over 300 pages, but it contains multitudes." DWIGHT GARNER

Boston Globe EXCELLENT

"Baum also illustrates the profound cultural richness of New Orleans, showing us its powerful sense of community, its laid-back lifestyle, and its unique blending of rich and poor, black and white. ... The richness of Baum's research is everywhere on display." CHUCK LEDDY

Dallas Morning News EXCELLENT

"What makes these people so compelling is not where they live, nor that you know what lies ahead for them. ... [Baum] knows how to plumb the depths of emotions, bringing to the surface intimate dreams and secret fears to reveal them as being simply and absolutely human." BEATRIZ TERRAZAS

Minneapolis Star Tribune EXCELLENT

"Baum takes...

To continue reading