Tuesday, April 20, 2010
Louise Erdrich Shadow Tag
I was watching Bill Moyers interview Louise Erdrich about this book in the laundromat while I was folding my clothes. Bill Moyers is retiring on May 7, 2010. The interview really caught my attention. This is a link to Channel 13's website which includes a bit about the interview. The interview made me want to read Shadow Tag. http://www.pbs.org/moyers/journal/04092010/profile.html
Shadow Tag is a literary novel. Louise Erdrich's novel Love Medicine which was excellent won the National Book Critics Circle Award. I remember having to read Love Medicine as part of my orientation to being a library at Brooklyn Public Library.
Shadow Tag is a tragedy and a love story. It is a story about a marriage that slowly drifts towards disaster. The two main characters, Gil and Irene America are symbolic of the darker side of artistry. Gil uses his wife as his model for his paintings. Some paintings are described as tender and beautiful and others as dark and degrading. Irene America writes her thesis about George Catlin a painter of Native Americans who had a very troubled and exploitative history.
Gil is filled with jealousy and envy about his wife, and Irene has a tendency to be passive, manipulative and alcoholic. This combination is used to explore the darker side of love where love and hate mix together into abuse. The abuse doesn't just affect the couple, it also affects their children.; Riel America constant imagines the end of the world and the teenage son Florian drifts into drugs and alcohol. The only one who seems oblivious is Stoney the kindergartner.
There is no positive end to this story. The story is not just about the anger in the marriage, it also touches on the anger of being a Native American in an unjust society. It explores the history of why the characters are the way they are.
The writing is intelligent and complex. It is a difficult, mature novel on hard subjects like trust, fidelity, lying, rage, sex, art, and alcohol. It does not try to redeem the characters. I found the book to be excellent.