Foreword Reviews

I Want Magic

Essays on New Orleans, the South, and Race

A native of New Orleans with a PhD in English, C. W. Cannon brings his perspective to the city, the South, and race in his essay collection I Want Magic.

With eloquence and keen analyses, Cannon defends New Orleans as complex and gorgeous—one of the greatest cities of the world. But he also highlights its worst instances of exploitation. Tourism is its paradox: amplifying the culture, putting money into people’s pockets, and bringing tax revenue to the city’s coffers, all while threatening to dilute the culture with marketing and bring gentrification that makes housing unaffordable. When New Orleans ranks in the top ten hip cities in an international magazine, Cannon asks “…Is That Cool?”

The overall tone of the book is erudite and satirical, placing value in people over profit. Metaphors are used to illuminate the city’s lush environments, as well as the human carnage caused by racism and poor political management. As a white man, Cannon recognizes that liberal New Orleans is a place where other white people can “celebrate their Southern cultural identity without the millstone of hate that Southern conservatives attach to it.”

No recent book about New Orleans is complete without a Katrina reckoning. In I Want Magic, the storm reveals racist inequities in government services as its aftermath wreaks chaos and trauma, but Katrina also takes its place as one more ghost, layered onto the city’s living history of the dead: “New Orleans is always already pre-apocalyptic or post-apocalyptic. We do the end of the world and then get up and do it again.”

The essays of I Want Magic celebrate New Orleans’s unapologetic delight in its identity as an arts and pleasure destination, but they also raise concerns about the human and cultural costs of trying to package that identity for profit.

Reviewed by Michele Sharpe

Disclosure: This article is not an endorsement, but a review. The publisher of this book provided free copies of the book to have their book reviewed by a professional reviewer. No fee was paid by the publisher for this review. Foreword Reviews only recommends books that we love. Foreword Magazine, Inc. is disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

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