“All Kinds of Unfathomable …”

I REVIEW Rebecca Solnit and Rebecca Snedeker’s collection of maps and easy — “Unfathomable City: A New Orleans Atlas” for Printers Row Journal.

New Orleans is “all kinds of unfathomable,” Snedeker and Solnit assert. It’s a city of vague and porous boundaries; it’s a city both of great need and of great excess. And as the book’s title implies, the very notion of developing an organizing thesis about New Orleans is futile and folly. “The compass that orients all the world,” writes Solnit, “makes little sense here and is not much used.” Cartographically, New Orleans is an enigma. Whereas mapmakers generally delineate land and water as distinct boundaries, “on the Louisiana coast,” Solnit and Snedeker explain, “land is so pervaded with water that it’s both or neither.”

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