Two-and-a-half score and a million records ago, two very different American songwriters released two very different albums that would go on to shape the future of popular music.
Citizens of the United States are quite taken with the vocabulary of liberal democracy, with words such as ‘freedom’ and ‘democracy’, which conjure key democratic values and distance the nation from the Old World taint of oligarchy and aristocracy. It is much less clear, however, that Americans are guided by democratic ideals. Or that ideology and propaganda play a crucial role in concealing the large gap between rhetoric and reality.
Strip away the delicious Seussian linguistic fillips, and you have a little boy on a vague journey with vague obstacles and a vaguely happy ending. (“Kid, you’ll move mountains!”) As the tepid 1990 review of the book in the New York Times asked, “Seriously now, who's got the punch line?” It’s harmless, of course, but one hates to think that “you” are beating Horton or Bartholomew Cubbins in the sales race. Frankly, you just don’t deserve it.
Perhaps the most important of Erdrich’s achievements is her mastery of complex forms. Her novels are multivocal, and she uses this multiplicity to build a nest, capacious, sturdy and resplendent, for her tales of Indians, living and dead, of the burden and power of their heritage, the challenge and comedy of the present’s harsh demands. Woven into the specificity of these narratives is Erdrich’s determination to speak of the most pressing human questions. In the case of her latest novel, “LaRose,” that question is deceptively simple: Can a person “do the worst thing possible and still be loved”?
In the long months of deep winter, the mood freezes, and, like the sky, turns forbidding. People hurry home to cocoon themselves indoors. To live year-round in a place like this you must be very good at being with others and then very good at being alone.