Friday, October 23, 2020

Literary Sewing Circle: Finale & Project Link Up

Today is already our final day of the Literary Sewing Circle focusing on Louise Erdrich's The Night Watchman! 

I hope you've had the chance to read the book, and both the first and second inspiration posts, and are getting lots of ideas for a project of your own.

The project linkup will be added to the bottom of this post: as soon as you are done your project, just pop a link to your post into the linkup and we will all be able to visit your blog/instagram etc. and explore your creation -- remember, it can be sewn, or knitted, crocheted, embroidered... any textile art that you practice.

Here are my thoughts on this book. 

I enjoy Erdrich's style; it's a calm, measured narrative voice but with little flashes of quiet humour as well. I appreciate that technique. Also, the care she takes in her descriptive writing really enlivens and illuminates the story and the setting. The small details bring the reservation to life in all its physicality -- the land, the trees, lake, animals, sky -- everything is so lovingly evoked, but not in a sentimental way. I think that sometimes that can be a hard balancing act but she seems to do it effortlessly. These kind of descriptive details also evoke the characters effectively; you can almost see each of them with their distinctive traits. 

And the characters are so wonderful! There are so many of them but they are all people. You can feel the life going on behind them, the parts she doesn't talk about. The "leads" are Thomas and Patrice, but the connections between them and all the others on the reservation, and at the factory or in town, are vital as well. Each of the small side characters have a role and a purpose, and even though at times some of the brief appearances might seem unimportant, the book wouldn't be so complete without all of the paths crossing, and the existence of each character in the narrative.

The book was inspired by Erdrich's own grandfather's work in defending the Turtle Mountain Chippewa against termination in the 1950s, but there is no sense that this novel is only dry biography or reportage. She takes this important topic and weaves it into a story of people and life that manages to highlight and illuminate the real costs of political wrangles and racist intent. I found that getting to know the individuals in this story, their concerns, their daily experience, their ambitions and relationships and longings, makes the rest of the story stronger and more compelling to the reader. 

I also liked how the story kind of wanders along in short chapters, moving between characters and seemingly small moments or experiences, with small flashes of each life. The oddity of Patrice's trip to the city to look for Vera fits in with this somehow, as does Millie's life at university and her sudden involvement with her father's family on the reservation. I found this an almost hypnotic read that carried me along until it was suddenly done -- maybe it was the mood I was in when I began it, but I found it just about perfect. I loved it a lot, and I hope you all did too. 

Please share your thoughts on the book, its themes, characters, or anything you noted about it -- either in the comments here or on our first Book Talk post, or on your own blog with a link to your longer thoughts in the comments so we can find it. I love to talk about the experience of reading so feel free to comment no matter when you're reading this post; if you've read this I'd love to hear your thoughts.

What project have you made, inspired by your reading of The Night Watchman? Share a link to your project on this post as soon as you're done! I've extended the linkup an extra week since some readers were having delays getting their hands on a copy, so the linkup will be live until Nov 20 --  you have another month of sewing time to finish and share.

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Share your comments, ideas or suggestions here -- I am always interested in hearing from readers. It's nice to have a conversation!