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Birchbark Blog

Too Loud A Solitude

Louise Erdrich - Sunday, July 12, 2009
I have trouble writing this blog post because I take it all so seriously.  I still write by hand in art paper notebooks, and am thinking of getting out my old typewriter because I miss typed manuscripts.  Then again . . . I am also thinking of writing  a whole book on birchbark with my teeth.  I do have news of a terrific read.  If you like Borges, Saramago, Kafka, Angela Carter, or writers born in Brno in 1914, who died in Prague in 1987, if you liked Bohumil Hrabal's Closely Watched Trains, or if you have never heard of Hrabal and you love books -- this is your book. 

Too Loud a Solitude, by Bohumil Hrabal.  I read it a month ago.  Then I read it again last night.  Maybe I'll read it again today.  The book is about a man whose job is crushing books.  It is a book about loving books and destroying books, about love and destruction, the crushing of ideas, the drinking of beer.  It is not a long book, but you will read it again and again.  It is a perfect book, I think. 

Besides reading this one book again and again, I've been reading newspapers.  I have been reading lots of newspapers with the awful feeling that the wonderful feel of print under my fingers, the dry snap as you unfold a newspaper, the paging back and forth, the tactile reality of the newspaper, is going to vanish.  So I've suddenly subscribed to several newspapers that I casually picked up every other day at the grocery store.  And all I give people for birthdays now is newspaper subscriptions.  I am doing this not only for the integrity of the news and the selfish feeling of joy I get when unfolding a newspaper, but for the many people I know who rely on completing the puzzles on newspaper pages -- for the lovely Finnish-American-Upper Peninsula Geology Professor I met on the airplane.  He was in his late eighties and had a folded crossword puzzle in his hand.  He was stuck but did not want me to brainstorm on an answer.  He enjoyed looking at his puzzle last thing before he went to sleep, and waking with the answer.  His was too loud a solitude, and puzzles are a friendly noise.

Buy a newspaper today.  Or Too Loud A Solitude.

Kathy Streitz commented on 14-Jul-2009 09:30 PM
I enjoyed your address to Dartmouth graduates. Did you bring the podium with you? You could have. I just finished a teacher's course with St. Mary's of Winona. We met in Stillwater. Multiculturally Responsive Literature and Teaching English Language Learners. Your name came up many times. My husband have me your book Four Souls for my 50th birthday three years ago. I started it again for the third time and refer to the family tree often. Four Souls is so much more than a story. I enjoy reading and jumping in and out of the story. Mauser's son's condition makes me sad right now.

I teach at a charter school in East St. Paul. We have just finished our 14th year and have about 450 PreK - 8th graders. Hmong, Hispanic and other families speaking many languages
attend. I do love what I do. Thanks for your work and for your words.

Marybeth Lorbiecki commented on 27-Jul-2009 01:07 PM
I was so inspired and thrilled about your speech that I wrote a blog about it and about Ohiyesa, Charles Alexander Eastman -- hope that's okay!
Tracy Mangold commented on 05-Aug-2009 08:12 PM
Thank you for recommending, "Too Loud a Solitude." I just finished reading it today and I loved it. Hrabal's writing is rich and beautiful, simplistic yet powerful. It is indeed the perfect book, especially for those of us who adore our books and appreciate them for the friends and teachers they are. I look forward to reading more of his works and am thankful that I have been made aware of this wonderful writer.
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