In the last couple of months I have come upon a couple of novels by Louise Erdrich. I began reading her work early in her career with, I think, The Beet Queen. I have just finished The Bingo Palace and will read a few other things before I pick up The Antelope's Wifee. Erdrich is a Native American writer. She writea about people associated with a Chippewa reservation [which I take to be based on a real one but hers is fictional] in North Dakota or Minnesota. Some of her stories are mostly straightforward narratives but some include a little or a lot of magic realism which is used to emphasize myth and native ways of thinking. I enjoy magic realism in the work of Central and South American writers and I like her way of handling it also.
Erdrich has created a cast of characters, some of whom reappear in various stories. I think of her as using them as Faulkner used his Yoknapatawpha County. They have wonderful names and they have complex family relationships. The Bingo Palace has two men, uncle and nephew, who are in love with the same woman. This story uses more magic realism than any other I've read yet. It is not a recent book, I cannot say she is tending in that direction because I think I've read later ones that are almost entirely without magic.
Mostly I prefer to ignore books by American writers because they write about a culture I know from the inside out. But Erdrich's stories take me to a world I do not know and always fascinate me. I feel she is writing truly about her culture, and I feel the same about Sherman Alexie, another writer I enjoy. A few minutes ago I was very delighted when I looked up some of the items on Google about Erdrich and discovered that we share a birthday, although she's about 15 years younger than I am.
ELDER MUSIC: Drinking Songs 3 - This Sunday Elder Music column was launched in December of 2008. By May of the following year, one commenter, Peter Tibbles, had added so much knowledge an...
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