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Louise Erdrich

  • I was sitting before my third or fourth Jellybean — which is anisette, grain alcohol, a lit match, and a small, wet explosion in the brain.

    • Louise Erdrich,
    • "Scales," in Rayna Green, ed., That's What She Said ()
  • Time was rushing around me like water around a big wet rock. The only difference is, I was not so durable as stones. Very quickly I would be smoothed away.

  • I don't pray. When I was young, I vowed I never would be caught begging God. If I want something I get it for myself. I go to church only to show the old hens they don't get me down.

  • All through my life I never did believe in human measurement. Numbers, time, inches, feet. All are just ploys for cutting nature down to size. I know the grand scheme of the world is beyond our brains to fathom, so I don't try, just let it in.

  • They were so strong in their beliefs that there came a time when it hardly mattered what exactly those beliefs were; they all fused into a single stubbornness.

  • ...Grandpa's mind had left us, gone wild and wary. When I walked with him I could feel how strange it was. His thoughts swam between us, hidden under rocks, disappearing in weeds, and I was fishing for them, dangling my own words like baits and lures.

  • By the time I was done with the car it looked worse than any typical Indian car that has been driven all its life on reservation roads, which they always say are like government promises — full of holes.

  • Gerry's friends, you see, had no confidence in the United States judicial system. They did not seem comfortable in the courtroom, and this increased their unreliability in the eyes of judge and jury. If you trust the authorities, they trust you better back, it seems.

  • You know, some people fall right through the hole in their lives. It's invisible, but they come to it after time, never knowing where.

  • You see I thought love got easier over the years so it didn't hurt so bad when it hurt, or feel so good when it felt good. I thought it smoothed out and old people hardly noticed it. I thought it curled up and died, I guess. Now I saw it rear up like a whip and lash.

  • God's been going deaf. ... Here God used to raineth bread from clouds, smite the Phillipines, sling fire down on red-light districts where people got stabbed. He even appeared in person every once in a while. God used to pay attention, is what I'm saying.

  • Your life feels different on you, once you greet death and understand your heart's position. You wear your life like a garment from the mission bundle sale ever after — lightly because you realize you never paid nothing for it, cherishing because you know you won't ever come by such a bargain again.

  • I was in love with the whole world and all that lived in its rainy arms.

  • I did not choose solitude. Who would? It came on me like a kind of vocation, demanding an effort that married women can't picture.

  • I want to lean into her the way wheat leans into wind ...

  • Our tribe unraveled like a coarse rope, frayed at either end as the old and new among us were taken.

  • Power travels in the bloodlines, handed out before birth.

  • I got well by talking. Death could not get a word in edgewise, grew discouraged, and traveled on.

  • The practice of deception was so constant with her that it got to be a kind of truth.

  • She was the crow of the reservation, she lived off our scraps, and she knew us best because the scraps told our story.

  • Hunger steals the memory.

  • When they were wild / When they were not yet human / When they could have been anything, / I was on the other side ready with milk to lure them, / And their father, too, each name a net in his hands.

    • Louise Erdrich,
    • "Birth," Baptism of Desire ()
  • [On her and husband Michael Dorris:] We both have title collections. I think a title is like a magnet. It begins to draw these scraps of experience or conversation or memory to it. Eventually, it collects a book.

    • Louise Erdrich,
    • in Writer's Digest ()
  • I feel myself becoming less a person than a place, inhabited, a foreign land.

    • Louise Erdrich,
    • "A Woman's Work," in Harper's ()
  • Death is the least civilized rite of passage.

    • Louise Erdrich,
    • "A Woman's Work," in Harper's ()
  • We all got holes in our lives. Nobody dies in a perfect garment.

    • Louise Erdrich,
    • "Insulation," The Bingo Palace ()
  • Money helps, though not so much as you think when you don't have it.

    • Louise Erdrich,
    • "Insulation," The Bingo Palace ()
  • Women without children are also the best of mothers, often, with the patience, interest, and saving grace that the constant relationship with children cannot always sustain. I come to crave our talk and our daughters gain precious aunts. Women who are not mothering their own children have the clarity and focus to see deeply into the character of children webbed by family. A child is fortunate who feels witnessed as a person, outside relationships with parents, by another adult.

  • Some people meet the way the sky meets the earth, inevitably, and there is no stopping or holding back their love. It exists in a finished world, beyond the reach of common sense.

  • She ... stares at me without blinking her cold yellow eyes. She has the look of a hawk, of a person who can see into the future but won't tell you about it.

  • All of our actions have in their doing the seed of their undoing. ... That in her creation of her children there should be the unspeakable promise of their death, for by their birth she had created mortal beings.

  • We have a lot of books in our house. They are our primary decorative motif — books in piles and on the coffee table, framed book covers, books sorted into stacks on every available surface, and of course books on shelves along most walls. Besides the visible books, there are books waiting in the wings, the basement books, the garage books, the storage locker books ... They function as furniture, they prop up sagging fixtures and disguised by quilts function as tables ... I can't imagine a home without an overflow of books. The point of books is to have way too many but to always feel you never have enough, or the right one at the right moment, but then sometimes to find you'd longed to fall asleep reading the Aspern Papers, and there it is.

  • Time is the water in which we live, and we breathe it like fish. ... Time pours into us and then pours out again. In between the two pourings we live our destiny.

  • ... the liquor sneaked up and grabbed her, got into her mind and talked to her, fooled her into thinking she was thinking for herself when really it was the whiskey thinking whiskey thoughts.

  • ... my mind ran over scenes of Shesheeb seducing Margaret until I was a wagon dragged by the runaway horses of my jealousy.

  • To sew is to pray. Men don't understand this. They see the whole but they don't see the stitches. They don't see the speech of the creator in the work of the needle. We mend. We women turn things inside out and set things right. We salvage what we can of human garments and piece the rest into blankets. Sometimes our stitches stutter and slow. Only a woman's eyes can tell. Other times, the tension in the stitches might be too tight because of tears, but only we know what emotion went into the making. Only women can hear the prayer.

  • Life will break you. Nobody can protect you from that, and living alone won't either, for solitude will also break you with its yearning. You have to love. You have to feel. It is the reason you are here on earth. You are here to risk your heart. You are here to be swallowed up. And when it happens that you are broken, or betrayed, or left, or hurt, or death brushes near, let yourself sit by an apple tree and listen to the apples falling all around you in heaps, wasting their sweetness. Tell yourself you tasted as many as you could.

  • Ravens are the birds I'll miss most when I die. If only the darkness into which we must look were composed of the black light of their limber intelligence. If only we did not have to die at all. Instead, become ravens.

  • When we are young, the words are scattered all around us. As they are assembled by experience, so also are we, sentence by sentence, until the story takes shape.

  • What men call adventures usually consist of the stoical endurance of appalling daily misery.

  • She had a talent for looking at a person with no expression — you filled in whatever you felt guiltiest about.

  • ... what happens when you let an unsatisfactory present go on long enough? It becomes your entire history.

  • So what is wild? What is wilderness? What are dreams but an internal wilderness and what is desire but a wildness of the soul?

  • We do know that no one gets wise enough to really understand the heart of another, though it is the task of our life to try.

  • When every inch of the world is known, sleep may be the only wilderness that we have left.

Louise Erdrich, Chippewa-U.S. writer, poet

(1954)

Full name: Karen Louise Erdrich.