November 16th, 2010 / 8:00 am

Gun, Gramophone, Violin, Bawling Baby

First paragraph from Louise Erdrich’s Plague of Doves:

The gun jammed on the last shot and the baby stood holding the crib rail, eyes wild, bawling. The man sat down in an upholstered chair and began taking his gun apart to see why it wouldn’t fire. The baby’s crying set him on edge. He put down the gun and looked around for a hammer, but saw the gramophone. He walked over to it. There was already a record on the spindle, so he cranked the mechanism and set down the needle. He sat back down in the chair and picked up his work as the music flowed into the room. The baby quieted. An unearthly violin solo in the middle of the record made the man stop, the pieces of the gun in his hands. He got up when the music was finished and cranked the gramophone and put the recording back on. This happened three times. The baby fell asleep. The man repaired the gun so the bullet slid nicely into its chamber. He tried it several times, then rose and stood over the crib. The violin reached a crescendo of strange sweetness. He raised the gun. The odor of raw blood was all around him in the closed room.


  1. Kyle Minor

      She keeps trying new things, especially in the recent books. I think she’s a very interesting writer.

  2. Bill Householder

      Holy fuck, that’s a helluva opener.

  3. Kyle Minor

      She keeps trying new things, especially in the recent books. I think she’s a very interesting writer.

  4. Kevin

      I know babies can be trying, but – holy God! Of course I’m making assumptions about what’s really going on there. Or maybe not. Second paragraph? I’m not sure I’d have the heart to read it though. But, yeah, helluva an opener.

  5. Richard Thomas

      Damn, Kyle. I like the way you think. I’m drawn to the dark as well. I don’t think I’ve heard of Louise Erdrich before. What can you tell me about her, what have you read, etc.? Echoes of Gay and Cormac and Flannery, yeah?

      I’m sure you’re familiar with Stephen Graham Jones, right? Blackfoot, he writes with some excellent historical and bibliographic angles relative to his own upbringing in Texas and whatnot. He does an excellent job mixing genre and lit in a dark way. My review of IT CAME FROM DEL RIO will be up at TNB today or tomorrow.

      I like the way DOVES opens, wow.

  6. Kyle Minor

      She writes about Ojibwes and Catholics and Ojibwe Catholics. Her early stuff was sort of high literary but she’s moving in the direction of something more like a degenrified mystery novel. Her stuff is usually nonlinear in the Ojibwe storytelling tradition. Most famous book is Love Medicine. Best book is Plague of Doves. Complicated person life (Wikipedia will get you started.) Occasionally slow-moving, but worth the effort.

  7. Kyle Minor

      By the way, I do know Stephen Graham Jones. I read with him a couple of weeks ago in Minnesota. Not only a good writer, but also a first-rate human being. I liked him plenty. Also: He’s an expert on zombies.

  8. Kyle Minor

      (personal life, I meant.)

  9. Richard Thomas

      Awesome, thanks for the info. Plague of Doves I’ll have to take a closer look at, real soon.

      And I’ll echo that about SGJ. He’s been a big help to me, very talented, and very generous of his time and knowledge. Much like yourself, Kyle.

  10. Pete

      Geez, that’s gripping. I hope music soothes the savage beast, and he reconsiders.





  12. deadgod

      [six-word novel]

      Gun jams. Tyke grips crib; bawls.

  13. Richard Thomas
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