Titus' writings perfectly capture life in a Louisiana gone by...
It was indeed a genuine treat. I’m referring to visit last week with fellow writer, Mariana Titus.
I had met her briefly once before and had been impressed by her literary sensitivity and by her passion for all things Louisiana.
We met at the library in Baldwin where I encountered her looking at the books in the Louisiana section. She seemed attached to them in a profound way.
Mariana explained that she divides her time between her residence in Santa Barbara, Calif., and her deceased mother’s home in Franklin.
When I asked her what was so special about Louisiana, she confessed, “I can come back, year after year, to the familiar and the comfortable. It’s a continuation of my childhood love.”
Mariana actually grew up in Garden City. She fondly recalls it as “... my world back then.” And it was there as a youngster that she eagerly awaited the frequent arrival of the St. Mary Parish bookmobile, which she was always reluctant to leave.
This love for words, together with her adoration for the culture of South Louisiana, has led to five books. Her latest volume, “Sunday Mornings/Crowning Glories,” is due out this month.
Her work is mostly a collection of stories, anecdotes and short conversations. “What I’m doing,” she said, “is capturing life as it really is ...through the joy and sorrow of everyday existence.”
I looked carefully at her volumes. Mariana has an uncanny ability to reveal the very essence of the people of the bayou. Her work is a panorama of tears, laughter, pain and exuberance.
The pages overflow with both candor and stunning intimacy. These books are not meant to be devoured, but savored slowly. They do not shout, they whisper to us.
Incidentally, Mariana is also an accomplished photographer. Her images illustrating the books pay homage to our people by celebrating their earthiness.
The photos depict individuals working, dancing, socializing or sharing quiet interludes.
In one beautiful example, in “Hurricanes, Healings and Dancing Ceilings,” there is a double portrait of an elderly woman and a child. With their eyes closed and their faces touching, nothing else is necessary. Love reigns.
I began to glance through a copy of her first book, “Graveyards and Bayou Bars.” Mariana’s eyes brightened.
“It was very fulfilling to have this published,” she admitted, “... and later to see it, and the others, on the shelves of my hometown library.”
I’d like to conclude this column by quoting part of the preface in “Rain, Cane, Bayou Refrain.” With these words, Mariana eloquently tells us where one can find her heart.
“This is the place where folks still remember living on houseboats that now decay on land with rain-scented memories. The song of crickets serenades a setting sun on these ancient moving waters, a moving lyrical history that never dies.”
O.J. Gonzalez, Contributor, The Daily Iberian, August 10, 2008
To view article in The Daily Iberian click here:
O.J. Gonzlez is a native and resident of Jeanerette. He graduated from USL in printmaking and photography and his photographs have appeared in publications in Louisiana, Alaska, Canada, New Zealand and England.
Summers Full of Porch Bull
"Summers Full of Porch Bull", by Mariana Titus --This scrapbook of very specific remembrances will have universal appeal, triggering similar memories in everyone who leafs through its inviting pages. Photos of people who have crossed the author's path dot the pages, ready to inspire memories of their own, and sentiment flows freely. As Titus says, 'Love is better than rabbit spaghetti.' "
Judy Johnson, Editor, The Times of Acadiana, December 20, 2000 / vol.21, No.17
Graveyards and Bayou Bars
Colloquial "gumbo" a mix of oral history and photos
Louisianans speak of what they know with voices rich with authenticity
"...Mariana Titus dishes up a spicy gumbo of voices from her girlhood home in Franklin, La. In their French-smattered drawl, local denizens speak of what they know and their voices are rich with authenticity.
These people lay out often sweetly startling bits of information: About love, one woman says, "My oldest son was conceived in the front seat of a '54 Ford. Maroon, I think."
Discussing his heritage, a man remarks, "Playin' bourrée and scarfin' down some hoghead cheese...that's livin."
Another comments about the consequences les bons temps. "I was drivin' my van fast-fast around the curve and ran into an okra patch. My horn is still belchin' out seeds."
One old timer reminisces about his chicken that liked to roost on pool balls. "We called her Gumbo' cause thas what we was gonna do with her."
Titus punctuates these snatches of oral history with photographs that give the flavor of the place and with engravings of headstones in the cemetery across the street from her mothers' house. The combination gives you entry into a lively world unlike anything you've encountered.'
Lin Rolens, Correspondent, Santa Barbara News-Press, March 9, 1997
"...The book Graveyards and Bayou Bars combines poignant tombstone epitaphs and photographs with equally poignant, and often humorous stories told in bars and on front porches all across south Louisiana.
The short stories, gathered from conversations with people from all walks of lie, run the gamut from hurricane evacuations to divorce miseries.
According to Titus, the idea came about combining two interests --Louisiana graveyards and folks in the region telling stories at bars, on porches , at festivals. Most are natural storytellers and often even the simplest tale unfolds into a drama."
Titus prefers stories that give the `gift of a valuable lesson.' Old folks are good with these, but sometimes just a simple exchange between old friends makes a great story."
Lana Downing, Correspondent, Houma Courier, May 1996
"...The unusual combination of two sources of inspiration, Louisiana cemeteries and folks telling stories at bars, on porches and festivals, evolved into her book. Mariana found that people in this region are mostly natural storytellers. Often the simplest tale unfolds into a drama, a mini chapter of local history, told concisely and with either pathos or humor...sometimes with both!
...Telling anything effectively in short form takes a lot of thought and considerable talent. To give a moral or lesson through this formula takes in-depth perception, compassion and an intelligence that sometimes escapes description of analysis. Then one reads Mariana's book, and it is plain that she has mastered the craft."
Shirley C. Breaux, Editor, Franklin Mainstream, October 1, 1996