Addressing Life

'Suddenly life has become quite full of monoethic ninnies and nannies who address life solely as a problem to be solved.'
Jim Harrison, Off to the Side

I just finished a new novel - Shadow Tag by Louise Erdrich. It reads fast, really fast. I started it in Denver and finished it by the time I reached Atlanta, flight-time that is. Erdrich's writing is always rich in the particularities of her Native American roots; this novel is no exception. However, this time she masterfully grafts those roots into the general trunk of marriage and children and individual identity. There's something here for everyone.

Irene America and her husband, Gil, are in a spiraling marriage. Their three children - Florian, Riel, and Stoney, along with the savant-like dogs - are both witnesses and participants in the gradually rapid descent. This is a complex story; an etiology of love. Its raw and dark and tender and surprising. It doesn't end happily, but it does end honestly. I found Erdrich's writing fearless, and as such, brilliant; it'll definitely break you out of the suburbia of your mind.  

If, in Harrison's words, you 'address life solely as a problem to be solved' I'd steer clear of Shadow won't like it. That 'address' in my opinion characterizes much of what passes for books on the themes of love and marriage and family. It goes something like this: my husband, my wife, my children, my marriage, my life for that matter, are all, at root, a problem and I need someone to help me fix/solve him or her or them or it or me. That 'address' again in my opinion is a fairly surefire way to miss the raw and dark and tender and surprising gift of existence. 

If, however, you address life as a drama to be lived, you might consider the latest from Louise Erdrich. Here are two quotes to potentially further woo - 

✠Infatuation, sudden attraction, is partly a fever of surfaces, an absence of knowledge. Falling in love is also falling into knowledge. Enduring love comes when we love most of what we learn about the other person and can tolerate the faults they cannot change.

✠To have meaning, history must consist of both occurrence and narrative. If she never told, if he never told, if the two of them never talked about it, there was no narrative. So the act, though it had occurred, was meaningless.


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