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Artistic Souls in New Orleans

Over the years, New Orleans has inspired numerous artistic souls, many of whom found temporary lodging in the relatively inexpensive French Quarter. The European architecture and eccentric characters of that neighborhood provided an endless canvas of material. From the peddlers on the street described in Faulkner's New Orleans Sketches to the mysterious Creole traditions that inspired Anne Rice's vampires, New Orleans has constantly stimulated the artistic mind.

Kate Chopin
February 8, 1851 - August 22, 1904
Chopin started raising a family in New Orleans before moving to Cloutierville, Louisiana. After the death of her husband, she moved back to St. Louis and began writing to support her family. Two of her three novels are set in New Orleans including her most famous, The Awakening. Chopin enjoyed walking around the city watching and listening to people. She was fascinated by Creole culture. Her works address racism, slavery and the repression of women. 

William Faulkner
September 25, 1897 - July 6, 1962
Faulkner spent six months living in the French Quarter in 1925 for a mere dollar a day while working on various sketches of the city for the literary magazine The Double Dealer and writing his first novel Soldiers' Pay. His old apartment at 624 Pirate's Alley is a national literary landmark and headquarters to the Pirate's Alley Faulkner Society. In 1949 William Faulkner won the Nobel Prize in Literature. 

Robert Penn Warren
April 24, 1905 - September 15, 1989
Warren taught at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge from 1934-1942 and wrote his Pulitzer Prize winning novel All the King's Men in 1946. The novel is loosely based on the career of Louisiana governor Huey Long. The 1949 film adaptation of the novel won three Academy Awards, including Best Picture. Warren wrote a total of ten novels and was also a prolific poet. 

Lillian Hellman
June 20, 1905 - June 30, 1984
Hellman was born and spent her early childhood in New Orleans until her family's move to New York. She returned to the city for half of every year to live with her aunts in a New Orleans boarding house, the setting for her play "Toys in the Attic." 

Tennessee Williams (Thomas Lanier Williams, III)
March 26, 1911 - February 24, 1983
As a young man in the conservative South of the early 20th century, Williams chose to write "because I found life unsatisfactory." He found likeminded companions among New Orleans' bohemian set in the 1930s. The city -- Williams' "spiritual home" -- is immortalized in "A Streetcar Named Desire." The theatrical production of "Streetcar" won the Pulitzer Prize in 1948 and the film won four Oscars in 1952. 

Walker Percy
May 28, 1916 - May 10, 1990
Percy and his wife settled in New Orleans in 1946, and then moved across Lake Pontchartrain. His first novel, 1962 National Book Award winner The Moviegoer, is about an ordinary Southern man stuck in a malaise over life in the Old South in a changing, new America. Percy's work is studied today as much for his interest in semiotics as for his memorable characters. 

John Kennedy Toole
December 17, 1937 - March 26, 1969
Toole was born, raised and educated in New Orleans. He went to Tulane University and taught at the Dominican College in New Orleans while working on a manuscript of a novel about an overweight, self-important graduate student. Following his suicide in 1969, Toole's mother insisted that Walker Percy read the work; Percy helped get A Confederacy of Dunces published in 1980. 

Anne Rice
October 4, 1941 -
Anne Rice's sympathetic vampire characters allow her to explore themes of history, race and a fascination with morbidity that reflect her early upbringing in the city of New Orleans. She uses memorable landmarks from her life in the city to color her novels: her antebellum mansion with its Egyptian keyhole doorway, cast iron fences and haunted hallways is the home for her Mayfair witches in The Witching Hour

Robert Olen Butler
January 20, 1945 -
A Vietnam veteran, Robert Olen Butler served in the military from 1969-71. After moving to southern Louisiana for a teaching job, he learned of a Vietnamese community near New Orleans. His 1992 Pulitzer Prize winning collection of stories A Good Scent from a Strange Mountain is written from the point of view of members of the Vietnamese diaspora in Louisiana. 

Andrei Codrescu
December 20, 1946 -
Codrescu moved from Romania to the United States in 1966. In his novel Messiah and the essays in The Muse Is Always Half-Dressed in New Orleans, he writes about the history, politics, the magical culture and the generations of artists that have graced New Orleans before him. A poet and editor of a literary magazine, Codrescu is a resident of New Orleans. 

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