Inside the graceful pages of Stealing Magnolias: Tales from a New Orleans Courtyard, Debra
Shriver shares her love affair for New
Orleans and her French Quarter home. The poetic
journey captures the city's lusty European flair with the whimsical memories of Mardi Gras, the deep-seated traditions of Southern ambitions, and the grand pursuits of dining and imbibing.
Shriver, Vice President with Hearst Business Publications, describes
it as Coup de Foudre, love at first sight for a city, home, and its people. But soon after finding the home came the
darkest hours of post-Katrina mayhem. A market void of skilled craftsman, she
meets Hal, owner of an antique store and gifted decorator. He transformed the
home's dank interior into a carousel of color.
The home captures the couple's passion for music, Debra and her husband, Jerry Shriver, music critic for USA Today, crafted a shrine with jazz and gospel monarchs Ella Fitzgerald and New Orleans native Mahalia Jackson. Queen Mahalia holds court in the dining room in a silkscreen painting while Ella is immortalized in an upstairs landing dubbed the "Ella altar." It is there, Debra confesses, fledging jazz artists from the New Orleans Creative Arts School play unseen during cocktail parties and candlelight suppers.
Southern traditions gracefully unfold in a lavish display of
artwork that reveals the fabled culture of New Orleans. Debra's sensual dialog captures
the essence of daily nuances as she sits outside in the brick courtyard reading
the newspaper aroused by the fragrance of her grandmother's gardenias and the
cadence of cooing doves.
The saga continues as the remaining chapters course through
the city's rich ancestry born from the seeds of Paris
and heady influence of the French, along with the Spanish, Africans and Caribbean Islands. She parades through the
neighborhoods introducing the sights, sounds and smells of New
Orleans with a lesson on the proper pronunciation of street names: Burgundy (Burr-GUN-Dee),
Carondelet (Caron-doe-LET) and the most challenging, Tchoupitoulas
(Chop-a-TOO-lis). It's a walking town
past the Café du Monde, the oldest coffee establishment in America, the open
air French Market, and Parisian-style bistros sprinkled all along the river
from Bywater to Audubon Park.
Tiny love notes dot the pages with quotes from New Orleans
icons and those who swoon for her affection, Ella Brennan, Wynton Marsalis,
George Rodrigue, James Carville, Anne Rice, Dave Matthews
and more, all testimonials that nurture the magic and the mystique.
Enlightened by the spirits of Voodoo, Debra shares her
personal experience with a nearby voodoo shop, and then one of Debra's most
moving passages. She examines the stoic beauty and stark contrast between the
living and the dearly departed inside the New
Orleans cemeteries, what she calls, "the small, silent
pathways of the Cities of the Dead." Faceless names and living legends reduced
to a single message scribed on rows of vaulted chambers. And her endearing symbolism
of flowers, "a daisy for youth and innocence, a lily for a virgin, a calla
variety for a departed wife, a morning glory for an absent sibling. There are
pansies for remembrance and poppies for eternal sleep. Broken tree trunks evoke
an early passing and weeping willows whisper eternal sorrow and mourning."
As a parting gift, Debra shares her communal address book, a list of favorite shops & museums, historic homes, hotels, restaurants, cocktails, books, and twelve reasons to return to New Orleans again and again. Stealing Magnolias tugs the heart like an old lover as her seductive pages cast a blissful spell of longing for a city filled with fantasies.