A dizzying array of extraordinary events

By Nathan C. Martin

A recurring theme among conversations I have with my friends is that New Orleans largely lacks—and this phrase has almost become a joke among certain folks I know—an “elevated level of discourse.” One friend went as far as to move back to Mexico City after trying to relocate to New Orleans, having realized, after a short trip back to D.F., that a conversation he had there with a cleaning lady was more interesting than any he’d had in New Orleans in the eight previous months.

The fact is, an “elevated level of discourse” simply isn’t a priority to most New Orleanians. And I am fine with this. People in places like New York and San Francisco—particularly if they’re involved in some sort of “cultured” circle—traffic in intellectualism, in erudite opinions. The smartest person at the party will be the coolest, and a whole cadre of blowhards will invariably try to prove their claim to that position by yammering on about … whatever. It’s annoying. But—and, sorry, New Orleans, you know I love you—talking about food and football becomes tiresome after a while, too.

Fall is a busy time in New Orleans. The heat of summer has subsided, and those of us trying to put on events and organize things for people to do know we only have a precious few months before the holidays and carnival steals away the city’s attention. It begins ramping up in September, and by November it’s reached a fever pitch, as the truly remarkable number of excellent upcoming events is evidence. Take a look: If you’re one to lament the level of discourse in New Orleans, particularly among the arts and humanities, get your fill in the next few weeks. There’s so much happening. Room 220 will try its best to provide more in-depth information about many of these, and many of the pieces mentioned below are already in the works—the interview with Ian Bogost, the rundown of things to look for at the PXP colloquium, the interview with Barbara Nitke, and more.

It’s rare that the city has so many events like these in such a short timeframe, so get ready to indulge. I hope to see you out at some of them.

On Thursday, Nov. 29, at 5 p.m., Loyola University New Orleans will host a talk by philosopher Ian Bogost in the Whitney Presentation Room in Thomas Hall, on the university’s main campus (6363 St. Charles Ave.). Bogost will discuss his work and ideas related to his recently released book Alien Phenomenology: What It’s Like to Be A Thing. Room 220 will feature an interview with Bogost, conducted by Christopher Schaberg and Tim Welsh, shortly.

On Thursday, Nov. 29, at 5:30 p.m., Tulane University will host poet and translator Andrew Zawacki in the Stone Auditorium of the Woldenberg Art Center (1229 Broadway St.) on the university’s main campus. Zawacki will read from his body of poetry and translations, which includes three books of his own work and several acclaimed translations. More information on Zawacki is here.

On Thursday, Nov. 29, at 5:30 p.m., Tulane University will host a presentation by photographer Curtis Mann in the Freeman Auditorium in the Woldenberg Art Center (1229 Broadway St.) on the university’s main campus. More information on the event is here. Mann’s lecture takes place thanks to the efforts of Room 220 friend and collaborator Sophie T. Lvoff.

On Friday, Nov. 30, from 6 – 9 p.m.
, Room 220 will host a Happy Hour Salon at the Press Street HQ (3718 St. Claude Ave.) featuring a presentation by Barbara Nitke, a New York-based photographer who will be celebrating the recent release of her monograph American Ecstasy. This event takes place in conjunction with PhotoNOLA. More information about it is here. Room 220 will feature an interview with Nitke, conducted by Nathan C. Martin, as well as an excerpt of text from the monograph, shortly.

On Friday and Saturday, Nov. 30 and 31, Tulane University will host PXP 2012, a poetry colloquium that brings together international and New Orleans poets for a series of panel discussions, readings, and social events. They keynote reading on Friday at 6 p.m. will feature poets Daniel Khalastchi, Blueberry Morningsnow, Kiki Petrosino, and Michelle Taransky. Room 220 will feature an article by Cate Czarnecki that gives you the low-down on the events shortly. PXP is organized by Room 220 friend Andy Stallings.

On Saturday, Dec. 1, beginning at 6:30 a.m., Press Street will host its seventh annual 24-hour Draw-A-Thon at the Marigny Opera House (725 St. Ferdinand St.). This participatory public art extravaganza has been a cornerstone event for Press Street since the organization’s inception, and this year’s will prove to be another hit. Information about the event and a schedule of happenings to take place during the Draw-A-Thon are here.

On Sunday, Dec. 2, at 3 p.m., the MelaNated Writers will host a Literary Jook Joint featuring poet Thomas Sayers Ellis at Cafe Treme (1501 St. Phillip St.). Ellis is the founder of The Dark Room Collective in Cambridge, Mass., which served as inspiration for the creation of MelaNated. Information on the event is here. Room 220 will feature an interview with Ellis, conducted by Jewel Bush, shortly.

On Sunday, Dec. 2, from 6 – 9 p.m., Room 220 will host Barbara Nitke once again at the Press Street HQ (3718 St. Claude Ave.) during the PhotoNOLA St. Claude gallery stroll. Nitke will be on hand to talk to folks about her exhibition and monograph, but won’t be giving a presentation.

On Thursday, Dec. 6, at 7 p.m., the New Orleans Public Library will host U.S. Poet Laureate Natasha Trethewey for a reading and book signing at its main branch (219 Loyola Ave.).

On Monday, Dec. 10, from 6 – 9 p.m., Room 220 will host a Happy Hour Salon at the Press Street HQ (3718 St. Claude Ave.) featuring a presentation titled “Hoping for the End of the World as We Know It” by Catherine Wessinger, an internationally renowned scholar on millennial movements. This event is part of the “End of Days” exhibition and event series at Press Street’s Antenna Gallery, which anticipates the end of the world, set to take place Dec. 21, 2012. Wessinger is the author of a number of books on millennial movements—commonly thought of as “death cults”—including three oral histories of the Branch Davidians, and How the Millennium Comes Violently: From Jonestown to Heaven’s Gate.

On Thursday, Dec. 13, at 7 p.m., Room 220 will host a reading with author Moira Crone at the Press Street HQ (3718 St. Claude Ave.), also as part of the Antenna Gallery’s “End of Days” exhibition and series of events. Crone’s recently published novel, The Not Yet, takes place in the near future, in a post-apocalyptic Mississippi Delta in which decades of hurricanes have left resources slim, society radically stratified, and one young hero left to piece together a life in a world that likely resembles our own future. Room 220 will publish an interview with Crone, conducted by Ari Braverman, shortly.