Oh, whom to root for, given that two writers with Minnesota connections have been nominated for the Dayton Literary Peace Prize? The winner will be announced Sept. 22, selected from a pool of U.S. writers that also includes Uwen Akpan, Richard Bausch, Ma Jian, Rachel Kushner, James McBride, Nicholson Baker, Joan Baxter, David Grossman, Ariel Sabar, Benjamin Skinner and Strobe Talbott.
On one hand, we have a work of fiction, based on truths: Minneapolis writer Louise Erdrich’s “Plague of Doves” deals with divisions between races and communities. She follows an unforgivable act of cruelty and racism through several generations to present us with the calm understanding that such things ultimately become part of all of us, on all sides.
“I don’t think that a writer begins with a political end in mind, but just hopes to tell a story,” says Erdrich. ” ‘The Plague of Doves’ is about the legacy of injustice in a small multiracial community. It was also about a complicated web of relationships. It was also about love.” It’s her 12th novel for adults, and showcases deft writing, terrific characters, and a perfectly balanced ratio of funny and horrific. She began her career with a bang called “Love Medicine,” but her pen and wit have sharpened in 25 years, and it would be nice to see that recognized.
But on the other hand, we have a nonfiction call to action by St. Louis Park native Thomas Friedman that could change the world. His “Hot, Flat and Crowded” presents a last-chance set of solutions to deal with global climate change, and puts a pro-business spin on them. Can we save the earth and get even richer at the same time? (Cause that’s the only way it’s gonna happen.) In Friedman’s smart and cheery view, yes, it’s possible. The fact that this book has been such a huge best-seller is inspiring; it means a lot of people are looking for answers and ideas.
Speaking of richer, the award comes with a $10,000 prize, which would be enough to cheer up most any writer. But Friedman’s not just any writer; the author and Times columnist has been taking heat in the blogosphere for the global footprint of his 11,400 square-foot East Coast mansion. (Would he notice another $10K?)
Erdrich says she greatly admires Richard Bausch’s nominated book, “Peace” (note to would-be contenders: A title like this has got to get the nominating committee’s attention). But if she were to win the money? “A writer might help establish a small Indigenous Language Press with a peace prize award, or keep a small independent bookstore going,” she says. In other words, yes, here that amount could make a difference.