Madison Smartt Bell On "Child of Light" & Louise Erdrich On "The Night Watchman"
Today, conversations with two acclaimed authors.
Tom's first guest is Madison Smartt Bell, the author of a dozen novels, who is perhaps best known for his award-winning trilogy of books on the Haitian Revolution and its iconic leader, the 18th century general, Toussaint Louverture.
He’s also written several non-fiction books, including a biography of Louverture. Earlier this year, he published a literary biography of an iconic American author who was also a close friend. Robert Stone is considered by many to be one of the most singular and influential novelists of the postwar era. Stone passed away in 2015. Madison Smartt Bell’s definitive, authorized exploration of his life and work is called Child of Light: A Biography of Robert Stone.
Madison Smartt Bell joins Tom from his home here in Baltimore.
Then, in an archive conversation (first broadcast on April 28, 2020), Tom speaks with writer Louise Erdrich. From her debut novel, Love Medicine, published more than 35 years ago, through 16 subsequent novels, Erdrich has introduced readers to some of literature’s most fascinating and intriguing characters and dazzled her legions of fans with prose that is consistently distinctive and powerful.
Her latest novel is called The Night Watchman. It takes place in rural North Dakota in the 1950s. It chronicles the efforts of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians to thwart the government’s attempt to terminate them, which is to say, end federal recognition of the tribe, and force them off their ancestral land. It’s based on the story of Ms. Erdrich’s grandfather, Patrick Gourneau, who led the Turtle Mountain Band’s fight against what the government called “emancipation.”
Tom spoke with Louise Erdrich on March 11th, when public understanding of the severity of the COVID-19 pandemic was in its nascent stage. They talked about the pandemic before they began recording their conversation, but they didn’t discuss it in the interview. On that day, Louise Erdrich was at the end of a 6-city book tour, still flying in full planes. She was in Lawrence, Kansas. They spoke in the afternoon, before her appearance that evening at Haskell Indian Nations University.
Louise Erdrich lives in Minnesota with her daughters and is the owner of Birchbark Books, a small independent bookstore in Minneapolis.
These conversation were pre-recorded, so we can't take your calls and comments.