Skip to main content

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.


Popular posts from this blog

New Yorker Fiction Review #151: "The Bog Girl" by Karen Russell

From the June 20 issue...

My loyal readers (if there are still any, which I doubt) will know I'm usually not a fan of Magical Realism, which, as you may also know, is Karen Russell's stock in trade. That said, there's nothing I love more than having my antipathy for magical realism shattered by an awesome story like "The Bog Girl."

Briefly, an Irish teenager discovers the body of a young woman who as been buried in a bog for over 2,000 years and begins to date her. What more do you need, right? If I'd read that one-line description somewhere else, and wasn't on a mission to review every New Yorker short story, I doubt I'd have read "The Bog Girl." But maybe I should start doing a George Costanza and do the opposite of everything I think I should do.

Where Russell succeeds here is in two main areas: 1.) Making us really love Cillian, the teenager who falls in love with the bog girl, and 2.) pulling the unbelievable trick making the characters…

Holiday Q&A, Volume 1

These questions come to us from Grace. Thanks for sending your questions!! Answers below:
What is the most thrilling mystery you have read and/or watched?
The Eiger Sanction (book and film) by Trevanian is what's coming to mind. International espionage. Mountain-climbing assassins. Evil albino masterminds. Sex. Not a bad combination. Warning, this is completely a "guy" movie, and the film (feat. Clint Eastwood) is priceless 70s action movie cheese. But in case that's your thing...
What's the deal with Narcos?
Narcos is a Netflix show about the rise and fall (but mostly the fall) of Columbian cocaine kingpin Pablo Escobar. Thus far there are two seasons of 10 episodes each. RIYL: The film Blow, starring Johnny Depp; the book Zombie City, by Thomas Katz; the movie Goodfellas; true crime; anything involving the drug trade. My brief review: Season 1 started out a bit slow and I know a bunch of people who never made it past the first few episodes. Some of the acting is a…

A Piece of Advice I Learned From My Grandfather

My grandfather was one of the most learned men I know. He read widely and voraciously, and not just in the sciences (he was a doctor); he loved politics, philosophy, and great literature as well. Whenever he finished a book he would write his thoughts about the book in the front cover and then sign and date it. To this day every once in a while I will open a book from my bookshelf or my mother's bookshelf, or at one of my family members' homes, and there will be my grandfather's handwriting. He was also a great giver of his books; if you remarked that you liked a particular one or wanted to read it, you were almost sure to take it home with you.

Reading is a very solitary pursuit but my grandfather was not a solitary person. He relished having family and friends around him which is convenient because he was blessed with a lot of both. And he carried out his intellectual life in a very "public" way as well. He was, in some ways, an intellectual evangelist. If he r…