Louise Erdrich is an immensely satisfying storyteller who molds her novels from the clay of her short fiction. In the preface to “The Red Convertible,” a collection of her new and selected stories, Erdrich writes that these pieces later “gather force and weight and complexity” to generate whole books, woven densely as tapestries.
This anthology returns 30 of those stories, which eventually became parts of 11 novels, to their original, unentangled forms. The book also includes six other stories, some of which are being published for the first time.
Like Faulkner, Erdrich has created a fictional community — an Ojibwe reservation in North Dakota — from which her work can unfold.
For my Summer Lit 1B students: I highly recommend this collection. However, if finding and buying this book isn’t in your budget, I passed out a copy of “Red Convertible” in class Th. June 25 to be read in conjunction with Leslie Marmon Silko’s “Yellow Woman” (handout) and Annie Proulx’s “Brokeback Mountain” (available in the VC bookstore or as a hadnout). For Monday, you need to read all 3 stories and find a common theme in two of them; you can also use Sam Shepherd’s True West. If you missed class or didn’t get a handout, I left copies of the handouts in the classroom near the door and the whiteboard. I also left some under the trash can outside out class! You might be able to find these texts on-line also.
Here’s a link to her original version of the story which you could check out at in addition to the handout or instead of. It’s very similar but the names are different. You can also find an intro to the book there.
Unfortunately, and strangely, the last page of “Red Convertible” did NOT get copied with the rest of the story, so I have typed page 154 below:
SPOILER ALERT: If you haven’t read the story, don’t read the end!! Don’t!!
“Got to cool me off!” he shouts all of a sudden. Then he runs over to the river and jumps in.
There’s boards and other things in the current. It’s so high. No sound comes from the river after the splash he makes, so I run right over. I look around. It’s getting dark. I see he’s halfway across the water already, and I know he didn’t swim there but the current took him. It’s far. I hear his voice, though, very clearly across it.
“My boots are filling,” he says.
He says this in a normal voice, like he just noticed and he doesn’t know what to think of it. Then he’s gone. A branch comes by. Another branch. And I go in.
By the time I get out of the river, off the snag I pulled myself onto, the sun is down. I walk back to the car, turn on the high beams, and drive it up the bank. I put it in first gear and then I take my foot off the clutch. I get out, close the door, and watch it low softly into the water. The headlights reach in as they go down, searching, still lighted even after the water swirls over the back end. I wait. The wires short out. It is all finally dark. And then there is only water, the sound of it going and running and going and running and running.