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Birchbark Blog

Immersive Reading

Louise Erdrich - Thursday, February 05, 2015

During the first twenty or so pages of Marlon James's A Brief History of Seven Killings I knew that I was reading an extraordinary novel, the kind that makes me page back and forth, set the book down, think about the language, then start again. I had to start the book over because I'd read quickly. The book flows because language is both brutally visceral and mesmerizing. There are offhand killings, botched killings, killings cunningly plotted and awkwardly executed. Although this book is centered on the miraculously failed attempt on Bob Marley's life and the swirl of murderous gang rivalry, cold war paranoia, and the infamous suffering of ghetto drug user/dealers, it is not a history book. It is what history feels like. I couldn't get out of this book. Sometimes I couldn't find my way inside of it, but I couldn't stop reading it either. Marlon James writes great characters, from the hit man desperate to please a scornful boyfriend, to a woman on the lam whose survival story is raucous, suspenseful, and absurd. This intelligent, intense, profane, and beautifully fluent novel is shortlisted for and richly deserves the National Book Critic's Circle Award for fiction this year -- best of luck, Marlon James.

Carol Montgomery commented on 09-Feb-2015 11:36 AM
I delight in your words and what comes from your rich inner world, into this material world as books. Aztec Ruins in New Mexico and it was possible to talk with you about it. THE BROKEN CIRCLE:A TRUE STORY OF MURDER AND MAGIC IN INDIAN COUNTRY by Rodney Barker is the book. There are so many questions, so much to startle me that I wish for a guide through it.
Gigi Burke commented on 09-Feb-2015 12:20 PM
Your review of this book brings to mind a work that had similar effect, Beyond the Beautiful Forevers, by Katherine Boo. Set in the slums of Mumbai with unforgettable characters and lives. Won the Pulitzer.
Claudia Wold commented on 12-Jan-2016 02:18 AM
Hello Louise Erdrich. It has been too long since I have read you. I am glad there are new ones to read. I hope you still have the bookstore and post soon.
Anonymous commented on 18-Jan-2016 03:17 PM
Dear Louise Erdrich,
Hi! my name is Gursimrat and I'm 11 years old,I go to Afton Lakeland Elementry, I'm in 6th grade and that is actually the reason I wrote. My classmates and I are reading the book The Birchbark House and I had an assignment to write to you.One thing I love about your book is that every character's life seems to be spun together in some sort intricate web, one little thing that someone does affects the whole village. Another thing I loved was that you put everything into this book; love,affection,tragedy and so many more emotions in one big swirl. Thank you so much for taking time out of your day to go and read this.

A Reader by Heart
Carey commented on 05-Feb-2016 01:02 PM
A Brief History of 7 Killings is really good, urgent and unusual. Even better by Marlon James (I think) is The Book of Night Women - the story of a clandestine group of slave women in Jamaica in 1785 who plan an island-wide revolt. I have never read any fiction or non-fiction about the particularity of female slaves in the Caribbean in this period, nor did I know that revolts were as frequent as they were. In drama and tragedy Marlon James gives an understanding of why, even being as heavily outnumbered as they were plantation owners and the state managed to hold on to slavery for the time that they did. The book has the same sense of immediacy and urgency as A Brief History of 7 Killings, and I thought Marlon James's sensitivity to the reality of women and girl slaves was special.
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