Friday 1 February 2008

71. Four Souls

Back in the late 90s, Louise Erdrich was one of my favourite writers. I've read almost everything she's written, and her awesome novel Last Report on the Miracles at Little No Horse helped get me through the last few weeks of studying for comps way back when (during which time I had a case of undiagnosed walking pneumonia on top of all the stress).

I haven't read either The Master Butcher's Singing Club or The Painted Drum, because both of them failed the page 40 test rather miserably and because they don't revisit the characters that have peopled most of her other novels. Given that Four Souls is about the recurring characters I grew to love in books like Tracks and Love Medicine, however, I figured it was worth the risk (especially because I picked it up for $5 in a remainders pile somewhere).

Four Souls was pretty good - it tied up some loose ends from the other books and was a good read in itself. I don't think, however, that it's up to par with her earlier stuff; in fact, I almost feel like she's suffering from the same thing I see Peter Carey as suffering from - she's become almost too polished. Four Souls, like Carey's last novel Theft is, is written as though Erdrich can do this with her eyes closed - like it's not challenging her anymore. And I think that while writing shouldn't be torture or anything, writers should always be trying to push themselves to the next level - which I don't get the feeling either Erdrich or Carey have done with the books of theirs I've read most recently. Thus, the verdict for Four Souls is: satisfying but not exciting. (Peter Carey's new novel will be released next week, so I'll be finding out soon enough whether or not he's still on semi-brilliant auto-pilot too.)

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