The Three Graces: Excerpts

  • Updated: February 1, 2008 - 4:40 PM

LOUISE ERDRICH

From her forthcoming novel "The Plague of Doves"

(HarperCollins, 320 pages, $25.95, April 29)

The doves ate the wheat seedlings and the rye and started on the corn. They ate the sprouts of new flowers and the buds of apples and the tough leaves of oak trees and even last year's chaff. The doves were plump, and delicious smoked, but one could wring the necks of hundreds or thousands and effect no visible diminishment of their number. The pole-and-mud houses of the mixed-bloods and the bark huts of the blanket Indians were crushed by the weight of the birds. They were roasted, burnt, baked up in pies, stewed, salted down in barrels, or clubbed dead with sticks and left to rot. But the dead only fed the living and each morning when the people woke it was to the scraping and beatings of wings, the murmurous susurration, the awful cooing babble, and the sight, to those who still possessed intact windows, of the curious and gentle faces of those creatures.

LISE ERDRICH

From "Monday," one of the short stories in her new collection, "Night Train" (Coffee House Press, 160 pages, $14.95)

The boss wants all the graphs to zoom up and down, like her moods, which is actually an easy predictable meaningless way for you to make a living. You already know her oddly juvenile repertoire of tricks. How she'll take different people aside, separately, secretly, specially, and assign them all to do the same task. Then sit back in her CEO chair enjoying the fear, confusion, jealousy, competitions. Then she'll come around to destroy and rip apart the individual effort, and someday she will die. But first it is time for the weekly episode: motivational speech, rags-to-riches Oprah autobiography. (Why can't you get me on her show? I'll find someone who can.)

HEID ERDRICH

From "Not Seeing Ground Zero in 2005," in her poetry collection "National Monuments" (to be published this year by Michigan State University Press)

Shops distract with fabulous treasures.

The 15,000 things lost in Baghdad's Iraq Museum,

looted and plundered since the first Gulf War,

couldn't have more fascinated us

than 50% off in the ladies department.

We do our own pillaging and, weighed with goods,

blasted in the wind of urban canyons,

seek the transit up to the West Side.

That's when we sense the gap at our backs,

sense some huge absence down the avenue ...

We turn, like women in myths who cannot resist.

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