The Plague of Doves by Louise Erdrich
Audiobook Publisher/Year: HarperAudio, 2009
Narrators: Peter Francis James & Kathleen McInerney
What it is: The brutal murder of a white family on a farm in North Dakota sends an angry group of men out to the nearby Ojibwe reservation in search of the murderer. The injustice of what happens will have repercussions for years to come. Two generations later, a part-Ojibwe/part-white girl named Evalina is trying to piece together her family’s involvement in what happened.
Why I listened to it: I’d never read anything by Erdrich before, and I picked it up on a whim when I saw it at the library.
What I thought: Parts of this book were positively breathtaking–I was often stunned by Erdrich’s poetic prose. Unfortunately, I can’t say this about the book as a whole. There is a lot to keep track of: multiple genrations, multiple narrators, side plots, etc. I wonder if it would have been easier to follow along if I’d read the book because I usually have no problem juggling different characters and plots. I read somewhere that the book originally started as short stories. If that’s the case, I can see how the book turned out somewhat disjointed; read as stories, some of the chapters would have come off as phenomenal. Overall, I didn’t not like it, but it wouldn’t be the first Erdrich book I’d recommend to people.
If this book were a beverage, it would be: whiskey.
A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole
Publisher/Year: Grove Press, 2002 (reprint)
What it is: A tragicomedy about the misadventures of Ignatius J. Reilly, an obese, offensive, haughty 30-year-old medievalist who lives with his mother in New Orleans. He’s often mistaken for a vagrant because of his unkempt appearance, and he can’t hold down a job, but that doesn’t stop him from looking down upon everyone.
Why I read it: For my Pulitzer Project.
What I thought: I kind of don’t even know what to say. Toole was a talented writer, and so much of this book is hilarious; the secondary cast of characters takes Ignatius everywhere, from jail to a second-rate strip club, to the flamboyant, wealthy gay scene in the French Quarter. The book is fantastic in small doses, but if I tried to read it for long stretches of time it started to get on my nerves. I spent most of my time wanted to strangle Ignatius, but I was also dumbfounded by the extent of his willful obtuseness. I really have to hand it to the 1981 Pulitzer voters for going so far off the beaten path and choosing Confederacy as the winner for that year.
If this book were a food, it would be: a hot dog.