A short memoir about Louise Erdrich (occassioned by The New York Times Book Review section, interview with author and memoirist Laurie Halse Anderson)

BLUF: Six minutes into the Glenn Close Jon Pryce thingy about a fake Philip Roth and I sort of want to switch to the Fred Rogers doc while I make a pork stir fry for my wifey; the jumping (not humping) the bed thingy got to me. What about a list of movies about authors? And by the way the fake Gerhard Richter film “Never Look Away” is top notch!


Earlier today i wrote a cheap post about Erdrich, based on the fact that I was reading the Times — but then updated because my wife had rented “The Wife” — get it?


1. Louise Erdrich and I are both alumni of Dartmouth College, she 10 years ahead of me;  in the years it was going co-ed.

2. I took a course from her husband, Michael Dorris, NAS 1 — I guess you have to be quite careful mentioning Dorris while discussing Erdrich; he was once her professor, too; they were married a number of years and raised many children together; he wrote a book on fetal alcohol syndrome, then a work of fiction that he said was aided greatly by her editorship, then cowrote with her another work of fiction that was famously optioned for big money by Hollywood but I don’t think ever produced; Yellow Raft, something about Columbus — unless that’s the director who optioned the film rights.

3. I am not sure if I’m using the term “memoir” correctly; yes, as David Shields suggests, when I write about Louise Erdrich I am writing about myself, but strictly speaking this seems more of an essay about her and less about me; notwithstanding the digression into MD.

4. I’ve probably covered this ground before, here in Plastic Alto;

5. When I was an assignment editor of The D, I rang her in nearby Claremont, New Hampshire and asked if we could send a writer by to chat her up and write about her books; his name was Rob Fields; he was a year ahead, but not really leadership of the newspaper — the ’85s were loaded; I think he was from South Carolina, unless I am confusing him with Adam Seesal; he did work at least briefly for a daily paper in a small city post-Hanover; nice guy, thin, smooth features. Handsome; Maybe we should for reference suss up his actual article. I think it was either sophomore summer or junior spring. So my memoir as it were would be limited to that phone call, which would have been less than 5 minutes in duration, and pro forma.

6. Louise has a sister in my class, maybe there were two sisters — Angie and Heidi. Heidi is now known as Heid E. Erdrich — I purchased two of her collections recently — poetry — but have not made much of a foray into their leaflettings

7. Famously, but not empirically, she has a book store Birchback in Minneapolis. I guess if you really wanted to interact you could maybe call there. (I have or had a cousin or the ex-wife of a cousin, RR, who lives in St. Paul and rich memories of visits there, starting with their wedding, to MB, at the Walker, or the reception and dance was. I later visited a friend of theirs, a agricultural activist, named BB, in Chapel Hill area. She gave me a raki massage, I think. I remember straining my shoulder while playing soccer, goalie, right before that trip. I took Amtrak to Raleigh and flew back; there was also a millinery fashion show, for a artist named Mary Michele Little. Unless I am conflating. Beyond digressing

8. Laurie Halse Anderson, according to the Times, has a memoir “Shout” and says on page 6 of the section that Louise would be the first guest at a hypothetical and mythical dinner party, with  Phyllis Wheatley I don’t know and Emily Dickinson. (I’m a horrible person but I — while fact-checking the spelling of that poet — came up with a dirty male-centric slur, then flashed to Joan Didion, whom we read, or some of them, at least, in Lynn Stegner’s recent great — “late great” — class at Stanford on memoir. Speaking of “Slouching to Bedlam” my Sparta pants hand held likes to suggest “Bethlehem” for the name of my synagogue which is “Beth Am” means “House Of The People”.

9. Like Louise Erdrich, Lynn Stegner both married her teacher and has now buried her husband. (OK I admit that’s a little bit sharp; Page Stegner died about a year ago at age 80; Dorris took his own life in 1990 at age 52

10. This came up partly because my wife, TMW, Terry Acebo Davis the artist and arts commissioner, saw a movie about Glenn Close playing a wife who ghost-wrote her fictional husband’s Nobel Prize-winnning work. At Left Bank, last night — between bites of: duck, rice, wild rice rather, french fries, with truffle and cheese, ketchup, some red wine, pinot, from Santa Barbara area but that’s not the precise area, escargot which they called “escargots” sic on the bill at least — more Terry’s thing than mine; green salad which Hugo the waiter bartender did not recognize as a cognate to “Salad Vert” — okay maybe that is “true salad” — as compared to “word salad” a term I used about an hour ago while chatting up a chance new acquaintance named Tim Steele of Stanford athletics alumni, who is about 80 and has a dog that Duffy barked at, but sparking the meeting — at the loss of half a bran muffin — long story — and this guy went by saying “Steve Jobs is Jewish….” and I said that when Greg Scharff and Karen Holman and Liz Kniss were stepping ceremoniously down from council I was going to give a benediction or memoir or little speak– sic — something about Greg and basketball, Karen and dogs and Liz and maybe hula, but that same guy spoke before me and I got cold feet because I thought they would mistake this kind of thing — shaggy dog — self-possessed — rambling- not weel edited –for actual thought disturbances or illness — unless he’s an all/ world method actor like a charactor out of Tom Robbins is it Skinny Legs and All, the guy who spins very slowly near world trade center and people see him as standing still — not Another Roadside Attraction  I don’t think, Or Beet Juice is it — compared to LE’s “The Beet Queen” as compared to Lew Welch, Joyce Johnson, Jack Kerouac, Lawrence Ferlinghetti (100!); some green beans; I also thought of “zydeco” but that’s just me. My juice. My tea.

11. Mateo Romero — I was just semi-describing to someone calling himself “Indian Giver” and an agent for has been bands — is a Dartmouth contemporary, a father, husband, activist, painter — I think we are friends at least I’m his collector — the last few calls have gone unreturned and unanswered — and he once wrote a group email with Louise’s apparent address. I wrote her three times, semi-seriously and she never responded.

12. Also the recent DAM has a list of top 40 or so all time Dartmouth thinkers in 250 years (1769-2019) and Louise Erdrich is #14 or so and the top distaff if that’s a word.

So to sum up:

I called her once and chatted for five minutes to set up an inverview for someone else.

I sent her two emails that were not responded to (I sent her two emails to which she has not responded, something out over which I refuse to freak).

Lynn Stegner is not obligated to respond to this, and was never oblligated to respond to such but nicely did.

Maybe I am just jerk enough to send this to Louise. (i.e. strike 3)

Better would be to read more Erdrichs’s of every stripe or ACGT.

Lynn stressed I should wipe out all the “atdual”s et al. (My spelling of “actual” that I let me published in first draft

But who else has compared Lynn/Page to Louise/Michael? (or was prompted by Glenn Close let alone Laurie Halse Anderson: I will edita to describe slightly better-like “Shout”.

I was writing someone earlier about giving Maya Ford of The Donnas “Rat Girl” by Kristin Hirsch

edit to add: Dartmouth alumni magazine recently named Erdrich #13 most influential alumnus in the 250 year history of the college. To wit:

Erdrich arrived auspiciously at Dartmouth in red cowboy boots as a member of its first coed class and first modern indigenous cohort, and she graduated in a pair of refurbished moccasins. She worked odd jobs—waiting tables, editing a newspaper, teaching poetry to inmates—while establishing herself as a poet, then as a short story writer, and, finally, in 1984 as a bestselling author with her debut novel Love Medicine, whose “beauty…keeps us from being devastated by its power,” raved Toni Morrison.

Erdrich’s stories blend the hyper-realistic with the mystical and the apocalyptic with the mundane to remind readers how bizarre reality can be. In her universe, a violin lost for decades washes ashore in an abandoned canoe. A woman enters into a marriage pact with a lake spirit. Her recurring characters—Indian boarding school survivors, German immigrants, and veterans-turned-priests—draw on shared memories and ancestral geography, and each new chapter in her saga feels bracingly original and brutally since.

2. “Shout” it turns out is about sexual violence. I found and semi-circulated a link to a Times story, to some of fellow writers from the Stegner class.

3 as proven in the following graphic Dorris was indeed 52 at the time of his 1997 death. With 6 children.


About markweiss86

Mark Weiss, founder of Plastic Alto blog, is a concert promoter and artist manager in Palo Alto, as Earthwise Productions, with background as journalist, advertising copywriter, book store returns desk, college radio producer, city council and commissions candidate, high school basketball player; he also sang in local choir, and fronts an Allen Ginsberg tribute Beat Hotel Rm 32
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