Happy Birthday, Louise Erdrich

Read the full article here | The Paris Review

…. So he was able at last to remove the child from its wrappings and bathe it, a girl, and to hold her. He’d never done such a thing before.

First he tried to feed her a tiny piece of the rabbit. She was too young to manage. He dripped water into her mouth, made sure it trickled down, but was perplexed at what to feed her, then alarmed when, after a night of deprivation, her tiny face crumpled in need. She peered at him in expectation and, at last, violently squalled. Her cries filled a vastness that nothing else could. They resounded, took over everything, and brought his heart clean to the surface. Scranton Roy cradled the baby, sang lewd camp tunes, then stalwart hymns, and at last remembered his own mother’s lullabies. Nothing helped.

It seemed, when he held her close upon his heart as women did, that the child grew angry with longing and desperately clung, rooted with its mouth, roared in frustration, until at last, moved to near insanity, Roy opened his shirt and put her to his nipple.

She seized him. Inhaled him. Her suck was fierce. His whole body was astonished, most of all the inoffensive nipple he’d never noticed or appreciated until, in spite of the pain, it served to gain him peace. As he sat there, the child holding part of him in its mouth, he looked around just in case there should be any witness to this act which seemed to him strange as anything that had happened in this skyfilled land. Of course, there was only the dog. Contented, freed, it lolled appreciatively near. So the evening passed and then the night.

Scranton Roy was obliged to change nipples, the first one hurt so, and he fell asleep with the baby tucked beside him on his useless teat.

She was still there in the morning, stuck, though he pulled her off to slingshot a partridge, roasted that too, and smeared its grease on his two sore spots. That made her wild for him….

— excerpt from The Antelope Wife

________________________________________________________________________________________________

[I figured I was all washed-up when I learned I was going to have another baby at forty-six. I thought, Oh, the hell with it. I’m never going to get out of this. But before she was born, I had all of this pent-up desperation and I wrote The Master Butchers Singing Club.

I’d always wanted to write that book….]

ERDRICH

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