Naked Woman Playing Chopin by Louise Erdrich, 1998
The magic trick:
Mixing desire, religion, art, and the desperation of survival
Back-to-back days with Erdrich in North Dakota.
There is a nun in this story whose spiritual crisis centers around the notion that she might love Chopin more than Jesus. If that sounds silly, the story is not interested in your perceptions. Erdrich takes her protagonist very seriously. Desire mixes with religion but also with the survival instinct we so strongly associate with the American West. The resulting story is something like a myth; maybe something like a biblical story; something like a tribute to the power of music. It’s really good.
And that’s quite a trick on Erdrich’s part.
Shocked, weak and wet, Berndt rose and slipped through the open side wall. He trod aimless crop lines until he could allow himself to collapse in the low fervor of night wheat. It was true, wasn’t it, that the heart was a lying cheat? And as the songs Chopin invented were as much him as his body, so it followed that Berndt had just watched the woman he loved make love to a dead man. Now, as he listened to the music, he thought of returning. Imagined the meal of her white shoulders. Shut his eyes and entered the confounding depths between her legs.
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