OAKLAND -- To Julie Pyatt, meeting bestselling author Louise Erdrich in an Oct. 18 appearance at Peralta Elementary School presented by bookstore Mrs. Dalloway's was more than memorable -- it was on Pyatt's "bucket list."
At a reading attended by about 100 people, Pyatt said: "She was a source of inspiration when I wrote my statement of purpose to get into grad school. There's a way she discusses perception and connection to place that resonates with me."
Pyatt added: "Oh my, meeting her is on my bucket list and now, I've done it. When I was 11, 'Tracks' fell into my hands. I still don't know how to describe it."
Having topped one admirer's bucket list, Erdrich shared insider information in her opening remarks on her 14th novel, "The Round House."
"This was such a personal book; I hated to let it go," she said. "I had an experience I've never had before. I was a 13-year-old boy."
Before reading the violent, opening section of the book, Erdrich looked around at her surroundings as if just noticing the students' artwork.
"There are no children here," she laughed, "so I guess we'll be all right reading this." Then, interrupting herself, she asked, "They do still teach penmanship here, don't they?"
Erdrich read passages from a young boy's horrific realization that his world is forever changed to the ribald reminiscences of two aging characters and captured the crowd.
Afterward, readers asked about process and
"Why is it so hard to prosecute these kinds of crimes?" a woman asked about crimes committed by non-natives on American Indian reservations, a subject at the epicenter of "The Round House."
"It stems from the historical underpinnings of land tenure on historical reservation grounds. Tribal courts have no authority to prosecute those cases," Erdrich replied.
Another person in the audience asked: "How does it feel to be writing in a country that has made such an effort to erase or exterminate the (American Indian) voice?"
"Not exciting, but I like your question about erasing a heritage," Erdrich said, explaining the arduous task American Indians must undertake to prove their membership in a tribe.
"How do you get the skinny on an idea and it ends up a book?" was the final question.
"You just get an idea and don't let it go," she said.