Sunday Morning! “Four Souls” by Louise Erdrich

Rufus F.

Rufus is an American curmudgeon in Canada. He has a PhD in History, sings in a garage rock band, and does many things. He is the author of the forthcoming book "The Paris Bureau" from Dio Press (early 2021).

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12 Responses

  1. I’m so glad you published this! I really enjoyed reading this and found it very insightful.Report

  2. Aaron David says:

    Heh. A piece on revenge, that mentions Jim Harrison but doesn’t talk about his best work, Revenge? I too read a lot of Harrison in my 20’s and that novella always stuck with me.

    I don’t think that a new Faulkner or Basquiat would be too concerned with falling outside the accepted grounds in the fields that those authors are currently loved and respected for, simply because I don’t think that the two areas would hold any interest for a truly great, developing artist at this point. I am starting to realize that those are both dead ends intellectually (sadly?), and that whatever comes after is something that you and I are going to be missing as we (me more that you) are not of an age and that can really see a new direction that arts are going in. Narrative video games, text blurb video, whatever, it isn’t going to be set by our strictures and desires. When this comes to pass, even though I too love the arts as they currently stand, it will be scary, different, and exciting. Much like punk was when it smashed those that came before.

    I picked up the account of the first man to sail solo around the world, written in the late 19th century. A bit wordy, but the love of the sea, much like Conrad’s, is infectious. Sailing Alone Around the World. Joshua Slocum.Report

    • Rufus F. in reply to Aaron David says:

      I think I mentioned Basquiat because I was just talking about him with my roommate, who’s a semi-working artist. Anyway, she was doing a residency in a little artist community in the Pacific Northwest, US, and there was an older gentleman there from NY who told the artists “You know, I broke Jean-Michel Basquiat when he was first starting out. I gave him his first gallery show.” So, they thought “Yeah, right!” and then looked it up and, sure enough, he was the guy who broke Basquiat.

      So, they screened a PBS doc about Jean-Michel Basquiat and that NY scene of the era and, about halfway through, all of the artists in the back of the room looked at each other and said “This would never happen today”. People from that background are increasingly shut out from the arts, not to mention NY. I do think there are great artists out there- actually, we give them monthly shows in the record store I help run and there’s an amazing painter there now. But the arts have gotten a lot better at marginalizing them. In my opinion.

      I guess what I worry about is the great artists are all limited to shows that folks like us put on in lousy basement record stores!Report

      • Aaron David in reply to Rufus F. says:

        I think a big part of the problem is looking at NYC as the place to go. Why? It isn’t affordable, it dosn’t allow an artist to live cheaply while doing art, and so on. That we are fixated on one answer, due to it working in the past, is one of the things that is cratering art/lit in my view. Why not go to the beaches of India, Detroit, a Russian backwater to create? With the internet allowing connections with patrons and dealers around the world, there should be no reason that one has to stay in that most expensive city. Or be in a pricy arts program. Unless the creation of art isn’t the reason one is there, but rather the creation of being an artist.

        And those, as you put it, lousy basement record stores in places like Hamilton might be just the place to find new, exploring artists willing to work in new fields and directionsReport

        • Rufus F. in reply to Aaron David says:

          Right, well the problem is maybe more for “Art” than it is for artists, although with financialized, globalized real estate speculation being the powerhouse that it is now, we might well run out of Detroits that people can live in, if they’re going to work part time jobs and make art, or don’t have rich daddies.

          People ask all the time why establishment Art, or Literature, or whatever, has become so insipid and uninspiring and in the case of Art, it’s because the Art world is just another place for people with too much money to launder it.

          Same with high end real estate. Gary Indiana’s line that New York City has become the world’s largest money laundry is pretty closely tied to why it’s of so little cultural relevance anymore. Nobody lives there. They just own condos there. At least nobody lives there that can afford to make art all day without rich parents paying the rent. So, that problem is New York’s problem more than it is for someone who wants to make art. Like you say, they can move elsewhere. And, indeed, many of them are.

          But, alas, speculators are scrambling for new places to jack the rent and pay off the investors. Hamilton is a backwater, with a crap job market, but it now has the fastest-rising rent in Canada and just got pegged in a report by the IMF (!) as having the most overvalued real estate in the country, so local artists might have to live in their parents’ basements for a few years while those real estate speculators try to create another ghost town of empty condos and throngs of homeless people. It’s pretty much the only industry that cities like ours have left- increasing the value of real estate for old investors in other parts of the world.

          I think you’re right about the artists- they’re out there in the hinterlands, along with the great writers. I hope so. We’re going to need them.Report

  3. Saul Degraw says:

    Yesterday I saw Gatz at Berkeley Rep as performed by Elevatir Repair Service. You can’t call it an adaptation because the text is every word of the Great Gatsby including “he said” and “she said.”

    The performance starts in a low rent office building that looks like it is from the 1990s. There are still type writers. The one computer is clunky. They have filing space filled with banker’s boxes. A man can’t get his computer to work, he finds a copy of Thr Great Gatsby in a Rolodex and begins reading out loud. His office mates eventually become the characters. A sporty woman in a polo shirt and sneakers becomes Jordan Baker. The elegant blonde who tries to dress a bit nicer than everyone else becomes Daisy. The reader is of course Nick. The bullying ex-jock with rolled up sleeves becomes Tom.

    It was wonderful and showed that a lot of the text in the Great Gatsby is intentionally funny. Really, really funny.

    Still the evening begins at 2 and ends at 10:45 and 2.5 hours of breaks is not quite enough.Report

    • Rufus F. in reply to Saul Degraw says:

      A bit of synchronicity- I am concurrently discussing Gatsby because there is a fire-damaged apartment near me that has been renovated and reopened as “luxury apartments” (one-third the size of my apartment for two and a half times the rent) and redubbed “The Gatsby”, which led to a discussion about what real estate yuppies think the novel is about, aside from featuring a really nice mansion.Report

  4. Em Carpenter says:

    I’m re-reading The Awakening, because I saw some old photographs on Twitter that made me think about it. Wondering how it hits differently for me as a 40 y/o wife and mother of two, vs a 20 y/o single English major.Report

  5. PD Shaw says:

    We watched Woman at War yesterday, a film from Iceland, which seems to have at least some superficial similarities to Four Souls. It’s about an eco-terrorist who has declared war on the electrical power lines running to an aluminum smelter. Superficially she is at war with global warming and the greedy combine of multinational business and national politicians. The action scenes are quire well-done, as the self-identified “Mountain Woman” scurries through the highlands to avoid the national security apparatus.

    The complication comes when her adoption application is accepted, something that as a woman of 49, she felt had become impossible by now. Looking at the picture of the Ukrainian girl, orphaned by war, she sees herself. She confronts her (identitical?) sister who also applied at the same time, each agreeing to support the other’s adoption, but her sister is withdrawing to explore herself in some sort of new age commune. So the Woman at War is also in conflict with her own identities.

    A particularly quirky touch are musicians that serve as a geek chorus. They first appear in the initial action scene in which the Mountain Woman runs across the heath only to stop and catch her breath in front of the three piece band that had been performing the background music. The initial impression is Pythonesque, but it becomes clearer that musicians are providing insights into the Mountain Woman’s mental state, foreshadowing events by their silent presence, and in one or two instances participating in the action, suggesting the hand of fate is moving events.

    Probably my favorite movie in the series so far, probably because its strongest on plot and characters.Report