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I wrote The Gar Diaries for working class folk, especially the working class of southeast Louisiana.  That region is quite underrepresented in the world of literature and I wanted to give a voice to that region.  I think where I was raised is a bizarre and beautiful place, and deserves to be written about…but beyond that, what I was attempting to do in The Gar Diaries was to capture the spirit of Joy as I often experienced it as I was growing up. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Louis E. Bourgeois

Lucas Jeanfreaux has no illusions about his troubled life along thebourgeois_web_photo.jpg bayous of Southeastern Louisiana. He attempts to understand the beauty and horror of his world and does so with an extraordinary display of honesty that is so strong - it can only lead to redemption.

The Gar Diaries, in an almost surreal way, deals with the problems of growing up working class in South Louisiana toward the end of the 20th century. The main character, Lucas Jeanfreaux, has no illusion about his troubled life along these bayous of Louisiana.

Born into a troubled working class existence at the very end of the Vietnam war, Lucas understands only three things at a very early age: there was a war and now it's over, there is something dark about his life, and, somehow he is not like other people.

 

 

“It's quite a badge of honor when a writer becomes so associated with his region that we treat him as though he created the place itself: Faulkner's Mississippi, Cheever's suburbia, Dicken's London, to name a few. To this list, we should add Bourgeois's Louisiana, for in the prose pieces that comprise The Gar Diaries, Louis E. Bourgeois brings to the reader a place---his corner of Southeast Louisiana---that is little seen and little known. In prose as dazzling as his poetry, he makes flora and fauna come alive, and populates his world with people we need to know. Warm and troubling all at once, The Gar Diaries is a one-of-a-kind book from a true original." Thomas S. Williams, Arkansas Review

 

 

BOOKS-AND-AUTHORS.NET: Where did you grow up and was reading and writing a part of your life?  Who were your earliest influences and why?

Louis E. Bourgeois: I was born in New Orleans, Louisiana on February 19, 1970, around noon on a Thursday, two days after Mardi Gras and one day after Ash Wednesday.  I grew up on the north side of Lake Ponchartrain in the Slidell/Lacombe area.  I spent many of my weekends and summers as a child at my grandmother’s marina, Jeanfreaux’s Fishermen’s Rest, in East New Orleans on the Bayou Sauvage.  It is quite natural that these exotic waterscapes and marshland images became important to me as I developed as a poet and writer.  I didn’t learn to read until I was seven or eight years old, but when I finally did learn, I struck back with a vengeance.  By the time I was ten years old, I read the entirety of a Funk and Wagnall’s encyclopedia set my mother bought for me on an installment plan and by the time I was twelve, I’d read the whole of the King James bible twice (once because my mother made me, the other time because I wanted to).  I read little serious literature until high school and in the tenth grade I became obsessed with Yeats and Coleridge—I thought these two poets best expressed the anguish and beauty of life, and I was most certainly a strange and abstract juvenile.  I was particularly in awe of Coleridge:  I must have read Kubla Khan and Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner no less than 500 times before I was sixteen years old.  I’m still this way even now, once I finally find a piece of literature I can truly admire and fall in love with, I’ll read it over and over until the book falls quite literally apart.

 

BOOKS-AND-AUTHORS.NET:  Why do you write?

Louis E. Bourgeois: I write primarily because I don’t know how to do anything else.  When I was younger, writing was a religious type experience for me, but I’m no longer sure if that’s the case any longer. But as William Saroyan put it, I write because I want to.

 

BOOKS-AND-AUTHORS.NET:  What kind of fish is a gar?  Why did you call this book The Gar Diaries?

Louis E. Bourgeois: The garfish is one of the oldest species of fish in North America.   Where I was raised in South Louisiana, they were eaten by the poorer population of the region, but not because of the quality of the meat, which taste as good as the most highly prized sports fish, but because they are so difficult to clean (it takes a machete or axe to dress one, and a whole lot of skill to boot).  But my interest in the gar had nothing to do with this:  growing up on the wharves on Bayou Sauvage, I was always intoxicated when seeing gars lying as still as spikes just below the waterline…I’d stare at them hard, as if I was taking in their spirit.  They were strange and mystical creatures to me, I was also frightened of them.  In any case, when I began writing my memoir, it seemed as if every other narrative was either about garfish or included gars in one way or another.  A friend of mine, J.E. Pitts, of Oxford American fame, noticed this apparent obsession with gars in my prose and made a quip that I should call it The Gar Diaries.  He meant it as a joke but I in fact liked the sound of it and the idea behind it quite a bit.  The garfish in my book serves as a kind of metaphor for the primitive side of individuals and societies, a primitivism that we have not transcended and perhaps never will. 

 

BOOKS-AND-AUTHORS.NET:  Do you still fish?

Louis E. Bourgeois: I no longer fish or hunt.  I’ve become a vegetarian over the past year or so for complicated reasons that even I don’t fully understand.  Certainly, The Smith’s song Meat is Murder had an impact on my decision to convert, or perhaps all the animals I killed in my youth have come back to haunt me now that I’m quickly approaching middle age.

 

BOOKS-AND-AUTHORS.NET:  In the chapter “Baton Rouge” you write, “I do not ever want to go to certain places…Dallas, Atlanta, Houston, Boulder, Denver….” Please explain.

Louis E. Bourgeois: I can explain only the southern towns here…I was raised in one of the hottest regions of the country…even the winter months can be boiling hot in Slidell, etc.  This being the case, cold weather was always a welcomed and even mystical event where I was raised.  As a child, I dreamed of living in cold climates.  I now live in Oxford, Mississippi, which is still very much the deep south, but is six hours north and the weather is often times quite a bit cooler than down in New Orleans—I still dream of living in cold regions—I would like to spend early fall in Norway or Denmark someday.

 

BOOKS-AND-AUTHORS.NET: What do you hope readers will take with them after reading The Gar Diaries?

Louis E. Bourgeois:  I wrote The Gar Diaries for working class folk, especially the working class of southeast Louisiana.  That region is quite underrepresented in the world of literature and I wanted to give a voice to that region.  I think where I was raised is a bizarre and beautiful place, and deserves to be written about…but beyond that, what I was attempting to do in The Gar Diaries was to capture the spirit of Joy as I often experienced it as I was growing up.  The book is about a lot of things, poverty, class issues, disability, education, stupidity, shyness, arrogance, sex, starvation, drunkenness, God and the Anti-Christ, etc., but, if forced to say what ultimately the book is about, I would say it is about the real need to obtain freedom, by any means necessary.

 

BOOKS-AND-AUTHORS.NET:  What did you learn from writing The Gar Diaries?

Louis E. Bourgeois:  Mostly, that memory is sacred and writing is the best way to preserve the greater qualities of what we are.  

 


 

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