If I Could Turn Back Time

Few authors know where to expect inspiration, but that’s only part of the excitement of our profession. So is venturing into unknown territory. Despite being a fan of George Orwell’s The Time Machine, Jack Finney’s Time and Again and Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander, I never considered writing time travel because the market was lopsided with poorly written, badly plotted stories about some woman getting hit on the head and waking up to discover she’s Cleopatra. Such books had, to quote Dorothy Parker, all “the depth and glitter of a worn dime.” My reluctance changed some years ago when I lived in the French Quarter, and did something as innocuous as going onto my gallery one warm winter evening to enjoy a glass of wine. I wasn’t there long when fog began...

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“Let him who wishes continue.”

Louisiana abounds with tales of antebellum sugar kings and their baronial estates. For extravagance and tragedy, few eclipse Valcour Aimé, the “Louis XIV of Louisiana” and his home, Petit Versailles. Wondering what remained, I drove up the Great River Road some years back and found lush cane fields crowding the bones of what had been the grandest private garden in the Americas. The big house had been lost to a fire in 1920, but old photos and journals gave a glimpse of the grandeur that was. François-Gabriel “Valcour” Aimé was born into wealth in St. Charles Parish in 1798 but never rested on his lofty laurels. After buying a string of sugar plantations, he experimented with refining methods and developed a vacuum pan system revolutionizing the...

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Lasting Impressions

The über hot ticket in Washington, D.C. this summer is the Edgar Degas/Mary Cassatt exhibit at the National Gallery of Art. One surprising revelation is that both artists loathed being labeled “Impressionists” (they preferred “independents”), but no mention is made of the abruptness with which Degas threw himself into this radical style or that his decision was made thousands of miles from his native France. Degas’s mother, Celestine Musson, was a Louisiana Creole who died when he was thirteen, and in 1872, at age 38, he visited her brother Michel and his daughters, Estelle, Mathilde and Désirée in New Orleans. Seduced by the exotic city, he wrote glowing letters home about his enchantment. “Everything attracts me here…the white houses with columns of fluted wood...

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