Literary History of a New Orleans Hotel
The Hotel Monteleone, a history New Orleans hotel, has long been a favorite haunt of distinguished Southern authors. Many of them immortalized the Grand Dame of the French Quarter in their works. Ernest Hemingway, Tennessee Williams, and William Faulkner always made 214 Royal Street their address while in the Crescent City. While in the Carousel Bar & Lounge, Truman Capote used to boast that he was born in the Monteleone. (He wasn’t. Though his mother lived at the historic hotel during her pregnancy, she safely made it to the hospital in time for Truman’s debut.) The list doesn’t stop there; Anne Rice, Stephen Ambrose and John Grisham also joined the ranks of literary guests over the years.
In June of 1999, due to the Hotel Monteleone’s distinction among the literary elite, the hotel was designated an official literary landmark by the Friends of the Library Association. (The Plaza and Algonquin in New York are the only other hotels in the United States that share this honor.) Whether truth or fiction, the Hotel Monteleone’s history is rich in stories.
Ernest Hemingway did more to change the style of English prose than any other writer in the 20th century. For his efforts, he was awarded a Pulitzer Prize in 1953 for The Old Man and the Sea and the Noble Prize for Literature in 1954.
Hemingway was an aficionado of bullfighting and big-game hunting. His main protagonists were always men and women of courage and conviction, who suffered unseen scars, both physical and emotional. He covered the Spanish Civil War as a journalist. The Hotel Monteleone is proudly memorialized in his short story “Night Before Battle”, which takes place during that war.
American novelist, short story writer and playwright, Truman Streckfus Persons was born in New Orleans to a salesman and a 16-year-old beauty queen. He was widely regarded as a Southern Gothic novelist and a stylist after publication of his earliest novels. He wrote about the frail, fragile folk who live on the margins of the world — the perplexed Holly Golightly, the confused Miss Sook, the lonely Collin Fenwick. He reminded us always, through his novels and stories, that there are strange people in the world, but that they must always be treated with kindness and understanding.
Throughout his life, Capote was fond of telling interviewers that he was born at the Hotel Monteleone. Actually, his mother stayed at the Hotel Monteleone leading up to his birth, and the New Orleans hotel staff transported her to Touro Infirmary, where the birth actually took place.
A Louisiana native, Rebecca Wells is an actor, playwright and novelist. Her novel Little Altars Everywhere, which features our New Orleans hotel, won the Western States Book Award. Her follow-up novel, Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, inspired a grassroots literary following that sparked the creation of Ya-Ya clubs around the country, while rising to number one on The New York Times best-seller list.
William Faulkner is more than simply a renowned Mississippi writer. The Nobel Prize-winning novelist and short story writer is acclaimed throughout the world as one of the twentieth century’s greatest writers.
Faulkner is one of the more remarkable feats of American literature. How a young man who never graduated from high school, never received a college degree, could, during the Great Depression, write a series of novels all set in the same small Southern county – including As I Lay Dying, Light in August, and above all, Absalom, Absalom! – that would one day be recognized as among the greatest American novels ever written.
In addition to the Nobel Prize and a Pulitzer Prize, in May of 1951 French President Vincent Auriol bestowed the Legion of Honor Award to Faulkner at a ceremony in New Orleans. After receiving the award, Faulkner was interviewed at the Hotel Monteleone by New Orleans newspaper columnist, Albert Goldstein.
Faulkner biographer Joseph Blotner has written that the Hotel Monteleone was Faulkner’s favorite hotel. To this day, Words and Music, a festival of Faulkner-related event, is headquartered at our New Orleans hotel annually in the late fall.
Richard Ford, well-known Mississippi writer, is the winner of both the 1996 PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction and the Pulitzer Prize in Literature for his novel Independence Day. The Hotel Monteleone is featured on Ford’s first novel A Piece of My Heart.
Eudora Welty, born in Jackson, Mississippi, in 1909, is best known as a Southern writer of short stories and novels. She also worked professionally as a photographer. During her lifetime she was the recipient of numerous awards, including several O. Henry Awards and the Pulitzer Prize. The Hotel Monteleone’s famous New Orleans hotel bar, Carousel Bar & Lounge, is immortalized in her short story, “The Purple Hat.”
During his prolific career, Tennessee Williams produced dozens of short plays and screenplays, two novels, a novella, 60 short stories, over 100 poems, and an autobiography. Among his many awards, he won two Pulitzer Prizes and four New York Drama Critics’ Circle Awards.
Williams first visited the Hotel Monteleone as a young child, and always claimed it was his favorite New Orleans hotel. He was so enamored of it that he included it in his play The Rose Tattoo. As a tribute, the Hotel Monteleone is the headquarter New Orleans hotel for the Tennessee Williams Festival, held in March each year.
Winston Groom is an American novelist and non-fiction writer best known for his book Forrest Gump, adapted to film in 1994. Groom was born in Washington, D.C., but grew up in Mobile, Alabama, where he attended University Military School (now known as UMS-Wright Preparatory School). He attended the University of Alabama, where he was a member of Delta Tau Delta and the Army ROTC, and graduated in 1965. He served in the Army from 1965 to 1969, including a tour in Vietnam. Recently he has lived in Point Clear, Alabama, and Long Island, New York.