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Birchbark Blog

What Happened?

Louise Erdrich - Sunday, May 17, 2015

Sometimes spring flows by one blossoming tree after the next and then May 18 arrives and my book pile is still here, beside the computer, waiting to be written about before shelved. Hiding in Plain Sight by Nuruddin Farah begins with the loss of an intimately drawn character, and the complex family interactions that proceed quietly in the aftermath.  Although composed of small occurrences, intricate adjustments, the book is riveting in its fidelity to each character's subtle renovation. Euphoria by Lily King is splendidly told. A brilliant, talented, magnetic female anthropologist is coveted by two men, one profane and without conscience, the other possessing too much conscience to be effective.  I read it all in one happily exhausted night. 

The Evil Hours by David J. Morris, a Biography of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, is both elegant and profoundly urgent. Morris, a former Marine and war correspondent in Iraq, writes of his own experience, "I came to think of myself as devoted to a sort of Kabbalah, a cult of one whose mission it was to discover what the others had missed, the pattern hidden in the loom, the hand of God . . . "  In the wake of trauma, Morris goes on to observe, this need to make sense of things becomes an obsession. This book does exactly that only in a moving, human, self-revealing way that grounds the reader in the writer's experience, and the dramatically drawn experiences of historical heroes and victims. It taught me something new, and defined for me much that is mysterious about the ever changing labyrinth of traumatic memory.


At Last!

Louise Erdrich - Wednesday, March 24, 2010
Dearly Beloved Customers From Minneapolis and Saint Paul,

Reading back through the logs and posts after a long (wasn't it almost endless) winter I came across Janet's comment -- have I missed thanking the customers from The Most Romantic City in the World -- and the Equally Most Romantic City in the World -- our Twin Cities?  You have brought our little ship through the doldrums of January.   Or, you know, that very quiet time in January.   I am in a twelve step Patrick O'Brian resistance program but have occasional relapses into sailor talk.  Thank you brave book lovers who set your spankers and ventured out into the one way streets paved with ice.  Thank you for coming to Birchbark Books.  
I had to turn to William Trevor because I was in irons with the British Royal Navy. Love and Summer is a small gem of characterization, rural self containment and quiet pain.  Again, this book the choice of March's book club, I was enthralled by those who shared a homage to the Irish meal and talked about the book.  What a pleasure it was.  The next book choice is Wolf Hall, by Hilary Mantel.  Our Celebrity Host will be the marvelous cookbook writer and great reader -- Beth Dooley.  With Katherine Viegel of the Kenwood Cafe, they are inventing a meal right off the royal table of Henry VIII.  I thought that everything possible had been written that could be written with wicked relish about that period of history, but no.  Wolf Hall.  Oh no.  From the Napoleonic Wars into the marital savagery of Tudor England!  Another purely addictive read.

Entirely on another note -- the language activist, Bemidji State Professor, author and all around wonderful Anton Treuer visited to read from and lecture on his book.  Recently published by The Minnesota Historical Society Press, Ojibwe in Minnesota is a distinct achievement.  This book finally, AT LAST, serves as the perfect text to introduce Ojibwe history here in Minnesota.  Treuer manages to pack a world into each sentence.  This is the perfect book for anyone curious about the Ojibwe, the perfect book for those who want to consolidate understanding of the Ojibwe, the perfect book for . . . well, everyone.  I wish that this book was required reading for living here in Minnesota.  

Mike and Niizhoo Sullivan sang a great hand drum song before the Anton Treuer reading.  Look up Niizhoo on You Tube.  His singing will blow you away and make you happy.  He is five years old.  Kudos to Mike for pursuing his doctorate in linguistics at the U and for singing with his son and passing on these moving, exquisite, lovely Ojibwe songs.

If I wrote blogs more often they would be shorter.  This has been a week of At Lasts -- health reform, after all.  Tune in to Bill Moyer's Journal this Friday, March 26, for what I am sure will be a valiant attempt to parse what just happened.

Yours for books,


Canoe Family

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