One of the wonderful books TBK gave me for Christmas is a history of New Orleans published in 1930 by Lyle Saxon, called “Fabulous New Orleans.” The handwritten inscription on the opening page says, “To Father from Marion & Sister, June 21, 1931.” I’m a sucker for old books — particularly when they deal with something or someone I care about. Last Christmas, she gave me a biography of Theodore Roosevelt, written while he was president. Believe me — there is nothing new in the world of revisionist history and political aggrandisement. This 190something book is full of references to TR’s almost mystical powers of clearheaded thought — at least in the eyes of the worshipful (and obviously I-voted-for-him authors. Sound familiar?
Anyway — Saxon isn’t known as a great historian. I’ve read several of his works, including his “biography” of Jean Lafitte and Old Louisiana and others. He was an overly florid writer and took tremendous liberty with the facts, easily substituting conjecture when facts are hazy. And he was also very much a product of his time. For instance, he writes (when talking about voodoo), “one must understand something of the negro’s characteristics. It must be remembered that he is intensely emotional, that he possesses a childlike credulity, that his imagination is easiliy inflamed,” etc etc. So anything he writes has to be taken with a large box of Morton iodized salt at the ready.