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During a recent trip up to Massachusetts, Dan and I stopped at a place called the Book Mill. It is an old mill converted into a book and music store, cafe and performance space. It is full of creaky charm, overlooks a rushing stream and is filled with MA’s most literary hipsters and often, although we didn’t see them the day we were there, the area’s royal couple, Thurston Moore and Kim Gordon. It took me a little while to decide what I should purchase there; finally I landed on a book I’d been meaning to read for years, Love Medicine by Louise Erdrich. I’d read her later work, Plague of Doves, and loved the writing but had some issues with the structure, so giving her most well-known work a shot seemed like a natural move. The copy I picked up at the Book Mill is the “new and expanded edition”–after reading it, I am happy I have this longer version because I could have kept reading this book forever.

I’m really late to the party with Love Medicine, I know–everyone else read it in the 90s. But, if it has been that long for you, I suggest picking up the book again. I know I will return to it. It is that good. Structurally, I found it very strange and yet the structure is one of its strongest suits–it propels the narrative as well as keeps the reader alert and working to keep track of where the story is going. Read the rest of this entry »

On my last day working at the Intrepid, a co-worker gave me The Paris Review Interviews, II as a going away present. It was super nice of him and I’ve been working my way through the book at odd intervals over the last couple of weeks. I’m planning on writing a real blog post about an actual work of fiction soon, but in the meantime, I wanted to share this quote by Isaac Bashevis Singer from his Paris Review interview. It reminded me of another wonderful quote by George Saunders, which, if I can find it, I will also post, in which he explained why he writes science fiction. Here is Singer, from page 105 of the book, explaining why he writes about the supernatural.

SINGER:  …The reason why it always comes up is because it is always on  my mind. I don’t know if I should call myself a mystic, but I feel always that we are surrounded by powers, by mysterious powers, which play a great part in everything we are doing. I would say that telepathy and clairvoyance play a part in every love story. Even in business. In everything human beings are doing. For thousands of years people used to wear woolen clothes and when they took them off at night they saw sparks. I wonder what those people thought thousands of years ago of these sparks they saw when they took off their woolen clothes? I am sure that they ignored them and the children asked them, Mother, what are these sparks? And I am sure the mother said, You imagine them! People must have been afraid to talk about the sparks so they would not be suspected of being sorcerers and witches. Anyhow, they were ignored, and we know now that they were not hallucinations, that they were real, and that what was behind those sparks was the same power that today drives our industry. And I say that we too in each generation see such sparks that we ignore just because they don’t fit into our picture of science or knowledge. And I think it is the writer’s duty, and also pleasure and function, to brings out these sparks…