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Birchbark Blog

Pearlman, Lispector, Enright

Louise Erdrich - Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Dear Book Lovers,

Three writers have dominated my month -- Edith Pearlman (again), Anne Enright and Clarice Lispector.  Although I have some assigned reading to do, I've been escaping frequently into Binocular Vision, The Green Road, and Lispector's Complete Stories.  From Edith Pearlman this paragraph, "Into the slot she dropped.  She fell smoothly and painlessly, her hair streaming above her head.  She landed well below the water's surface on a mossy floor.  Toenails still there?  Yes, and the handkerchief in the pocket of her jeans.  A small crowd advanced, some in evening clothes, some in costume." 

Where are we?  So delicious and strange. 

Anne Enright: "Rosaleen was a nightmare.  She was very difficult.  She was increasingly difficult.  She made her children cry."

Clarice Lispector:  "The light in the room then seemed yellower and richer, the people older.  The children were already hysterical."

I will just say that these are marvelous reads, treasures, sharply funny, deadly sad, and that I hope you have the chance to read any one of them.

As for this other book -- Voices in the Ocean, A journey into the Wild and Haunting World of Dolphins by Susan Casey -- what a surprise.  My daughter plucked it out of the advanced reader copy pile but I didn't open it because the cover looked like a Lisa Frank backpack or first grade notebook cover.  I like the illustrator Lisa Frank okay for elementary school swag, but this book deserves a truly unsettling cover -- something that gives a sense of its profoundly urgent content.  It also deserves a good title -- for instance many people read The Soul of the Octopus on the strength of its cover and title.  I read it too.  Not bad.  But this book!  Gracious.  Voices in the Ocean?  So vague.  This book is by turns jaw-dropping, tragic, funny, lit with love.  I kept it with me for two days, turning to it between volleyball points, school pickups, and I even took it on a dog walk.  Susan Casey is a talented science reporter, and I grew to admire her skills and bravery so thoroughly that I went dizzy when she stepped onto a harrowing boat in the Solomon Islands and took a gut-clenching ride -- just a friendly visit to dolphin murderers who killed 1,000 dolphins in a day.  She wisely travels between beauty and brutality, between research and folklore.  She goes to The Cove (Taiji, Japan, where dolphin snacks are sold to eat during dolphin shows).  She travels to Dolphinville, where people swim and commune with pods of dolphins in ecstatic communion.  She profiles dolphin rescuers and dolphin profiteers.  Often, the profiteers and murderers become so disturbed by the empathetic intelligence of their prey that they turn into the rescuers themselves.  By the end I knew what so many people feel -- the connection between our species is filled with meaning -- uncanny, powerful -- yet to be understood.

If you're looking for a book for an fuzzy wuzzy animal lover, this is not a cute book no matter what the cover may suggest.  Buy it anyway.  Read it yourself.  Voices in the Ocean is the furious and loving truth.  Plus, it is a fantastic adventure. 

Yours for Books,


Carey commented on 05-Feb-2016 12:38 PM
I value your review of this book, thank you, I would like to read it. I saw The Cove by Ric O'Barry when it was released and since then been actively involved with trying to end the Taiji captures and kills. Since Ric O'Barry's arrest and imprisonment in Japan 19 days ago (though he has never broken Japanese law) such a book is particularly pertinent.
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