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New Yorker Fiction Review: "The Big Cat" by Louise Erdrich

Issue: March 31, 2014

I'm less-than-enthused by this offering from Louise Erdrich. This is the first thing I've read of hers since I read her masterpiece, Love Medicine (1984), back in high school. While I can highly recommend Love Medicine -- a collection of stories set on an Indian reservation in the 60s & 70s -- this story makes me a little curious about the state of her more recent work.

I think what bothers me about this story is it lacks the genuine texture and "close to the earth" quality of Love Medicine and, I'd suspect, most of her earlier fiction. Maybe she's exhausted her ability to write about life on an Indian reservation, but it seemed like that was the material closest to her heart. Furthermore, it seems like in this story, taking on issues of middle-aged love and divorce in white middle-America, she's out of her "zone" and the story falls flat.

It's kind of like going to see the Rolling Stones in concert only to find they've suddenly taken up classical music...but they're not very good at it. It's not exactly a case of "shut up and play the hits," it's more like: if you're going to abandon your metier, at least have the courtesy to do it well.

Frankly, I don't even care to get into the specifics of plot, character, etc. It's a pretty short story, you should feel free to read it (or not) by clicking here.


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