Sunday, June 04, 2006

Local history

I picked up "The Great Deluge" yesterday, a history of Hurricane Katrina authored by Tulane history professor Douglas Brinkley. I'm about halfway through the book now. Brinkley is a dispassionate academic by trade; this book is scathing and judgmental, and, in some cases, rightfully so. New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin is particularly lambasted for his lame leadership during the storm and its aftermath. I gather that Nagin did not provide Brinkley with an interview, but I notice that several individuals who remain in the mayor's inner circle did contribute to the book. The NOPD, FEMA director Mike Brown, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, and President Bush also get a big thumbs down from Brinkley. Brinkley is slightly more favorable to Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco, though it's clear that she was in over her head. On the other hand, the U.S. Coast Guard, the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, the mayors and police forces of coastal Mississippi, various hosptial staffs, and a good many private citizens are shown to be genuine heroes.

Unfortunately, the book is chock full of typographical errors and misspellings, inconsistencies, and mistakes in geographical references. For instance, Brinkley refers to the residents of St. Bernard Parish, Louisiana, alternatively as "Chalemetteans" and "Chalmations," (which some people in Chalmette find insulting), and the Lake Borgne Surge pummelled St. Bernard Parish, not coastal Mississippi. I suppose the book was rushed into print. It is compelling reading, however.


Phoebe said...

Do you anticipate a more authoritative book on the Katrina disaster to come out? Maybe that's another reason he rushed to publication -- to beat the more thorough authors?

Randy said...

Brinkley is plenty thorough. It could be that there's too much material to fill one, easily digested book. LSU's levee expert also came out with a book, and I'd expect it's more narrowly focused.

It could be that Brinkley's publisher just wanted to beat out all the competition. Ray Nagin's people made a few comments suggesting that perhaps the book was intended to influence the recent municipal election, particularly as one source happened to be Nagin's opponent. Whatever, the editorial sloppiness does suggest the thing was rushed into print.

Phoebe said...

It probably will take many books and many viewpoints to adequately cover what happened.
I can't believe Nagin go re-elected.

Randy said...

C. Ray's victory speech was a hoot. After a pretty naked racial appeal during his campaign, he gave a shout-out to President Bush and said that he and Bush were the most maligned politicians in the country. Hee!