Quarter Rats
by J.R. Klein
Del Gato

"That’s what it's like sitting near a window in The Chart Room. The French Quarter moves past you and you sit still."

The book begins on Rubin's day off from working as a hotel bellhop. He hangs out at a cafe, chatting with fellow French Quarter "Rats"—people who make a living off the tourist industry. Over the next few days, Rubin recounts his chance meetings with these acquaintances and friends. Cliff is developing a Bojangles act to peddle on Jackson Street. Eddie sips beer—in an orderly fashion befitting a writer—between hours working on his tome and giving carriage rides. Ramona, Rubin's girlfriend, displays her sexy new waitress clothes for him. Photographer Sab, Rubin's best friend, gets ready for a weekend getaway. The narrator's attention to colorful details and his spontaneous, stream-of-consciousness approach convey New Orlean's carefree spirit.

Addressing "you" with casual quips and asides, Rubin draws the audience into his encounters and conversations as an insider. The audience is let into secrets of how to avoid sharks on ferry rides to the Algiers neighborhood, flea market tricks of the trade, and how to score the best busking spots. Unlike the tourists, at whom he often pokes fun, Rubin guides readers through the urban landscape as part of the "Rat Pack."

Rubin contrasts his own outlook with that of Russian novels and Cliff, neither of which "gets straight to the point." As insiders who get to know Rubin, readers can enjoy his irony. After all, he, too, reaches no point and has no plans or intentions. In essence, the book is a pleasure cruise through delightful scenes with no destination. Rubin mentions dreams of a psychiatry degree, and he practices a Charlie Chaplin act he might hustle. But what he actually accomplishes is an amusing literary diversion that, with its relaxed tone and eccentric characters, is perfect for vacation reading.

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