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October 5, 2009 1:36 PM   Subscribe

War Dances: “I wanted to call my father and tell him that a white man thought my brain was beautiful”. Sherman Alexie doing his thing in The New Yorker, excerpted from his upcoming book (early review; interview 1, 2.)
posted by Non Prosequitur (43 comments total) 65 users marked this as a favorite
What a great read. I love his writing.
posted by glaucon at 1:48 PM on October 5, 2009

it really bothers me that he suggested a dying cockroach would have "existential dread." i thought a thumping (or at least subconscious) death-wish was a component of existential dread. also, why is this in the fiction section? i guess he wants to be ethical about embellishments.

another good short read by him is Indian Education.

posted by Non Prosequitur at 2:00 PM on October 5, 2009 [1 favorite]

This is excellent.
posted by sputgop at 2:12 PM on October 5, 2009

posted by ColdChef at 2:12 PM on October 5, 2009

thank you for posting this! This is delightful!
posted by Hop123 at 2:23 PM on October 5, 2009

That was great.
posted by CitrusFreak12 at 2:29 PM on October 5, 2009

I wanted to throw my phone into a wall, but I said goodbye instead and glared at the tumorless people and their pretty tumorless heads.

posted by fontophilic at 2:32 PM on October 5, 2009

That was superb. (I had no time to spare for such a long piece, no time at all, far too busy...and suddenly I was at the end.)
posted by Jody Tresidder at 2:37 PM on October 5, 2009

This is great. I've never really much enjoyed or appreciated Sherman Alexie before, but this has completely won me over, so thanks for posting.
posted by newmoistness at 2:38 PM on October 5, 2009

Just to add a new adjective to the chorus: that was outstanding.
posted by penduluum at 2:43 PM on October 5, 2009

Yep, excellent read. Thanks.
posted by doctor_negative at 2:58 PM on October 5, 2009

Thanks for this. Some of his books I've liked and some I haven't liked as well. I like this story very much.
posted by small_ruminant at 3:04 PM on October 5, 2009

Stories like this are the reason I haven't given up on the New Yorker's fiction entirely.
posted by rtha at 3:08 PM on October 5, 2009

(j) You also agree that the entire third stanza of this poem sounds like a Bruce Springsteen song, and not necessarily one of the great ones.

Dear Mr Alexie,

Please consider me, henceforth, your bitch.


posted by kalimac at 3:21 PM on October 5, 2009 [1 favorite]

Sherman Alexie is one of my favorite authors. I got to see him read in the basement of a small church in the Lower Haight a couple of years ago when he was promoting Ten Little Indians. The man is a poet and it informs his prose writing as well. Here's some of his poetry:

Mystery Train
Missed Connections
Survivorman for the New Yorker

Some non-poetry pieces he's done:

An article he wrote for Time, When the Story Stolen is Your Own
An article he wrote about
Seattle vs. Sonics trial
Someone Else's Genocide
I Hated Tonto (Still Do)
Superman and Me
Some of my Best Friends

And one of my favorite bits from Smoke Signals: Victor & Thomas singing John Wayne's Teeth while on a bus.
posted by ooga_booga at 3:42 PM on October 5, 2009 [9 favorites]

Thanks folks. rtha, I liked their fiction issue last year; some pieces I enjoyed were Lostronaut (Jonathan Lethem), Another Manhattan (Donald Antrim), and Some Women (Alice Munro). One I liked this year was Idols (Tim Gautreuax). But except for Some Women—sadly available to subscribers only—they're pretty grim.
posted by Non Prosequitur at 3:51 PM on October 5, 2009

There were 100 Indians and only 50 pieces of fry bread!

Sherman...you are the best of what we are!
posted by salishsea at 3:54 PM on October 5, 2009

I remember going to see Smoke Signals when I lived in DC, at the theater in Dupont Circle. The friend I went with and I were virtually the only people laughing at the funny parts, I guess because no one else in the audience knew anyone who'd grown up on a rez. By the end, though, everyone was united in tears.

He's a hell of a story teller, whatever medium he uses. I liked the Business of Fancydancing a whole lot too.
posted by rtha at 4:10 PM on October 5, 2009 [1 favorite]

I write some amusing little things. Well crafted, even. I'm nothing compared to this writer. Thanks for introducing me.
posted by Turtles all the way down at 4:10 PM on October 5, 2009

Great stuff, nice guy. Discovered The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven in a fairly crap "Introduction to Native American Literature" class, loved everything he's done since.
posted by infinitywaltz at 4:23 PM on October 5, 2009

I've always thought Sherman Alexie had a beautiful brain.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 4:39 PM on October 5, 2009 [1 favorite]

One of the books I treasure (in that it meant enough for me to bring it to Japan at the expense of other things from home) is a signed copy of The Summer of Black Widows. Not only is it stunning poetry, it also shows that basketball can be poetry. I love his writing, I love the man for being so passionate. He was one of the loudest voices speaking out against the relocation of the Seattle Supersonics, louder and more strident than many, including former players like Gary Payton.
posted by Ghidorah at 6:07 PM on October 5, 2009

Thanks for posting this and the other links.
posted by semmi at 6:37 PM on October 5, 2009

excellent piece - thanks for posting this
posted by jammy at 6:44 PM on October 5, 2009

Alexie is fantastic.. period. I heard him on the radio a few months back and was amused to hear that he really pushes some buttons (not in a positive way) in the "traditional" NA community. He is not a fan of the rez culture to say the least, and that gets up some people's noses.

Aside from that, he has that quality of humor and tragedy to his writing that makes you laugh and cry, sometimes in the same paragraph.
posted by edgeways at 7:15 PM on October 5, 2009

Thank you.
posted by motty at 7:17 PM on October 5, 2009

Hey ya!

I'm a huge fan, so thank you for posting this. A new book from Sherman Alexie is cause to celebrate. I'm biased, because I work in Native American communities maybe, but I think he's the best fiction writer currently working.
posted by fourcheesemac at 7:28 PM on October 5, 2009

Very nice. Thanks for posting this.
posted by Quietgal at 7:51 PM on October 5, 2009

I really dislike the feeling of being in, or at least vaguely adjacent to, a community of people who have earned a fair amount of my respect for having intelligence, sophistication, and general non-vapidity, and still being the only one who hated it. It suggests strongly that there's something wrong with me.
posted by darksasami at 8:11 PM on October 5, 2009

What You Pawn I Will Redeem, my fave, and my Seattle fave (and there are contenders not by Alexie in that slot).

Both writers are so, so close to my heart. I cannot explain it, but that we are of an age, and read, and have read. Alexie is a complete redeemer, though. He restores my faith in the world, in myself, without bullshit, when I read him. I have a kind of a hard time with this, being irreligious.
posted by mwhybark at 8:34 PM on October 5, 2009

After exploring a lot of these links, I'm wondering how I spent so much of my life not reading Sherman Alexie. I was aware of him, and had read some of his poetry, but have for some reason never gone out and acquired one of his books. I am planning to remedy that ASAP. Thanks!
posted by OolooKitty at 9:11 PM on October 5, 2009

Wow. That was a really good read. Thanks for introducing me to that.
posted by dazed_one at 9:42 PM on October 5, 2009

[A brain] fondled by three thousand fingers. Fantastic.
posted by molecicco at 11:45 PM on October 5, 2009

darksasami, I don't think you have to feel odd about it, especially if you can articulate what turns you off about the piece. The stylistic aspects are definitely a bit gimmicky (I originally wrote "does his shtick" which I replaced with "does his thing") & he comes off with a bit of sass and annoying self-regard. What I personally responded to regardless of all that is that it captivated me as a tale of decay, hope and generation, told by a guy who doesn't flinch at putting things under a microscope, and in the end acquits himself well on the 'musing about human experience' level. Well there's more than that; it's a wonderful fusion of his personal story and insight and raw talent at the craft of prose.
posted by Non Prosequitur at 1:07 AM on October 6, 2009

I've not read anything by him before. Thank you for introducing this to me!
posted by Houstonian at 5:48 AM on October 6, 2009

Exactly what OolooKitty said - I was aware of Alexie (Has he done something for NPR? TAL, or TTBOOK?), but wasn't familiar with his work - definitely a situation I am going to recitfy.

Great post, thanks!
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 7:43 AM on October 6, 2009

My father felt a strong kindred spirit in Sherman Alexie. The bedside awkwardness in this story (“I know where I am. I’m cold.”)
touches a deep nerve to my own experience in that situation. My dad loved to tell the story about watching Smoke Signals with a mixed Indian / white audience. His observation that there was a lot of humor in the movie that the Indians laughed loudest at (the only-backwards-driving car, for example). Reading this story kicked off a healthy bout of next-stage grieving for my dad's passing. This very issue was sitting in my pile of unread New Yorker's, now clipped for posterity. Many thanks.
posted by dylanjames at 9:01 AM on October 6, 2009 [1 favorite]

I usually skip the NYer fiction, but this was truly badass. Thanks!
posted by everichon at 10:03 AM on October 6, 2009

Damn, that sucked hard.

No, just kidding, thanks for introducing me to Alexie, Non Prosequitur. Great read.
posted by Edgewise at 11:10 AM on October 6, 2009

Shouldn't that be "impulse-control-poor?
posted by Hello Dad, I'm in Jail at 2:21 AM on October 7, 2009

posted by Hello Dad, I'm in Jail at 2:21 AM on October 7, 2009

Companion reading: Forgiving our Fathers by Dick Lourie (the poem read at the end of Smoke Signals).
posted by cda at 4:27 AM on October 8, 2009

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