More Cures for Female Hysteria

by Louise Erdrich

Perhaps it is the most recent snowstorm -- these spring blizzards try the spirit. Or perhaps it was the dust bunny the size of an actual rabbit. Whatever. Since the last communique -- can I say that instead of blog please -- I've become increasingly interested in cures for hysteria. According to The Science of Human Life, published in 1921 . . . hysteria is not made up only of fits; its symptoms are strange and wonderful. They take so many forms, vary so immensely in different cases, and so mimic almost every other disease under the sun, that it will be both impossible and useless to mention half, or indeed a tenth part, of them.

My last symptom took the form of ridding the house of electronic junk. As if in vengeful sympathy my MacBook Pro turned on my trusty iMac (retro-future design, bright turquoise, I have two of them). My new stuff refuses to recognize files from my old stuff. New mysterious stuff is snubbing old mysterious stuff. End times are near.

And from the news it seems the world is falling apart. Could downloading the Word of God onto a Kindle be contributing? Rest easy, dear Dolores, I don't think so. I saw a real Gutenberg Bible at the J.P. Morgan library. The letters were still crisp and the ink a stark black. Yet I am sure that many people felt that the Bible was supposed to be written out by hand and illuminated -- which is actually how I write my books. Except the illuminations are just doodles.

Perhaps I have a form of hysteria that cannot be cured by friendly gadgets like this astonishing laptop. This other book at my elbow has a cover with a pebbly green texture. The pages have the smell of clean old paper. Perhaps instead of smelling salts one has only to open a well kept old book beneath her nose . . .