Louise Erdrich often gets compared to Faulkner, a comparison I know some people bristle at given the popularity of proclaiming to not like Faulkner as if it’s some kind of virtue. This comparison in part comes from her complexity in narrative and her blending of various styles and perspectives within single novels. Her writing is not remotely uniform: some novels are pretty straightforward narratives (like Faulkner) and some of more constructs of myriad forms (like Faulkner) and like Faulkner, her writing is generally one of place and family. There’s a couple of different linked novels in her oeuvre that are linked not in order like a series but these connections of family and place. Of these, I have enjoyed the Love Medicine books the least. For whatever reason something about them doesn’t grab me as much as some of the other books. This is a Love Medicine book and I found myself in a similar state. I am always in awe of her writing and the writing here is sensuous and rich as always, and I still find myself a little on the outside of it yet.
Another part of this novel, and one that is also true of Love Medicine, is I am always dubious of revised editions of writings. In some cases, I understand the impulse to go back and re-attached previously cut materials. Some novels have clearly been cut down by editors in a young career and going back and creating a finalized version is fine for me. But to re-edit and to add new material not written at the same time as the previous material makes me squirm. It’s this weird anxiety about reading a novel, and then years later essentially being told, no…you haven’t read it actually. For someone who is still writing pretty actively (and this is true of Henry James who also played around too much in his old writing) it feels weirdly stagnant to go back and keep meddling.