Lives of quiet rectitude

on August 28, 2008 with 0 comments » |

I read three or four pieces from Louis Erdrich's Love Medicine earlier this summer and was very impressed by her voice. I learned at the same time at the writing workshop I attended that she has a new novel called The Plague of Doves, which sounds like something I should read soon.

Like this reviewer in the NYT writes:

In “The Plague of Doves,” Erdrich returns to familiar territory, the stark plains of North Dakota, where the little town of Pluto sits beside rusting railroad tracks, slowly dying. What’s killing it? Old grudges, lack of opportunity, long-haul trucking, modernity itself. A civic-wide aversion to ambition doesn’t help.

..

Pluto’s modest citizens live lives of quiet rectitude punctuated by outbursts of lust and crime, the one often precipitating the other. These folks don’t need closets to hold their skeletons, they need storage units. Not that carnal desire and embezzlement — and kidnapping and vigilante murder and sweet-justice murder and death by bee sting — are such bad things, but the people of Pluto wear the history of these acts like heavy overcoats. They can’t escape their own past, or their grandfathers’ past. No wonder the kids are high-tailing it for the bright lights of Fargo.
(You can read an excerpt from the first chapter here but there was also a piece in the New Yorker a few years ago by Erdrich by the same name.)

I'm going to have to read the book later this year -- too many other books on my nightstand already. But the life of the Indians in the Dakotas is a foreign world to me...and it is for that very reason, more than for the author's wonderful writing, that I want to read more. For we read to go where our lives would otherwise not go, to hear stories that we would otherwise not hear, to experience feelings that we would otherwise not feel, and to realize, through this "interaction" that in the end human feelings and failings are the same everywhere. (Though I would hardly say my life is one of "quiet rectitude punctuated by outbursts of lust and crime." :))

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