Writing Love Medicine, I was able to roam the wilderness of thought and experience. It struck me that I could use scraps of my life, culled from the original manuscript, to add visual strata to the text of this first edition. This is a 272+ page thank you note to PEN for defending freedom of expression.
First edition. Her first novel, which received the National Book Critics Circle Award. Erdrich has turned her copy of Love Medicine—her chronicle of 60 years of the Kashpaw, Pillager and Nanapush families–into an illuminated manuscript. She colors green, black and blue the floral bead design that flows across the pages; she pastes in old matchstick advertisements for Erdrich matches; there are pictures of Saints (Saint Rita, her mother’s name; Saint Marie), images of children praying, frames from old cowboy and Indian cartoons, even a pink pussycat (p. 133). She offers (on p.131) sound advice to aspiring writers: “I rode buses everywhere cross the country—school and back (should be a required portion of every MFA application). Or trains.” Erdrich also includes photocopies of six pages of the manuscript for Love Medicine, showing her numerous corrections and changes. On the rear flyleaf of the printed book, she pens an amusing, self-deprecating author’s biographical note: “socially awkward habitual storyteller, self medicating through the written word, saves everything except money, eats anything except factory meat and kale…lucky in love, crazy lucky in daughters…” Even then the annotations are not done, as she pastes more images and writes more notes on the pastedown and both sides of the dust jacket flap. A remarkable, rich and generous performance.
ERDRICH, Louise (b. 1954). Love Medicine. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1984. 8°. Original cloth-backed boards; dust jacket.