Blasphemy: New and Selected Stories Paperback – 24 Oct 2013
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"Alexie is a virtuoso of the short story. . . . His first two blazing collections, "The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven" and" The Toughest Indian in the World", established him as an essential American voice. Now, many books later, best-selling Alexie has created a substantial, big-hearted, and potent collection that combines an equal number of new and selected stories to profound effect. In these comfort-zone-destroying tales . . . Alexie writes with arresting perception in praise of marriage, in mockery of hypocrisy, and with concern for endangered truths and imperiled nature. He is mischievously and mordantly funny, scathingly forthright, deeply and universally compassionate, and wholly magnetizing. This is a must-have collection."--Donna Seaman, "Booklist"
"A poet and fiction writer for adults of all ages, National Book Award winner Alexie is a virtuoso of the short story. His first two blazing collections, "The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven" and" The Toughest Indian in the World", established him as an essential American voice. Now, many books later, best-selling Alexie has created a substantial, big-hearted, and potent collection that combines an equal number of new and selected stories to profound effect. In these comfort-zone-destroying tales, including the masterpiece, 'War Dances, ' his characters grapple with racism, damaging stereotypes, poverty, alcoholism, diabetes, and the tragic loss of languages and customs. Questions of authenticity and identity abound. . . . Alexie writes with arresting perception in praise of marriage, in mockery of hypocrisy, and with concern for endangered truths and imperiled nature. He is mischievously and mordantly funny, scathingly forthright, deeply and universally compassionate, and wholly magnetizing. This is a must-have collection."--Donna Seaman, "Booklist" (starred review)
"[A] sterling collection of short stories by Alexie, a master of the form. . . . . The newer pieces are full of surprises. . . . . These pieces show Alexie at his best: as an interpreter and observer, always funny if sometimes angry, and someone, as a cop says of one of his characters, who doesn't 'fit the profile of the neighborhood.'"--"Kirkus Reviews" (starred review)
"Alexie hammers away at ever-simmering issues, like racism, addiction, and infidelity, using a no-holds-barred approach and seamlessly shattering the boundary between character and reader. But while these glimpses into a harried and conflicted humanity prod our consciousness, there's plenty of bawdiness and Alexie's signature wicked humor throughout to balance out the weight."--"Publishers Weekly "(starred review)
"Over the years, Alexie has carved out a space in American literature as the great, tragicomic bard of the modern Native American experience. The stories in "Blasphemy" offer ample proof why. . . . Told in [Alexie's] irreverent, unforgettable voice . . . You'll feel you've been transported inside the soul of a deeply wounded people. But they are a people too comfortable in their brown skins to allow those wounds to break them. . . . With irony and sardonic wit, the Native men and women in Alexie's imagination find a way forward, and they endure. . . . [A] great triumph."--"Los Angeles Times"
"Alexie once again reasserts himself as one the most compelling contemporary practitioners of the short story. In "Blasphemy," the author demonstrates his talent on nearly every page. These are deceptively simple, swift-moving stories awash with characters in the thrall of various sins and existential quandaries. Alexie deftly administers near equal doses of pathos and humor, providing such smooth entertainment that some readers may glide over his empathetic treatment of such themes as racism, identity, family, loyalty, and ceremony. . . . Will appeal to fans of Junot Diaz, George Saunders, and readers new to Alexie will find this enriching collection to be the perfect introduction to a formidable literary voice. . . . [Alexie] illuminates the lives of his characters in unique, surprising and, ultimately, hopeful ways."--"Boston Globe"
"Tough, warmhearted, rowdy, and moving . . . Alexie's achievement here is his depiction of the tangled complexities of race--that great open secret of American life--in an undidactic and utterly natural way."--"The Washington Post"
"A timely reminder of Alexie's genius."--"The Guardian"
"The truths [Alexie] mines are so insightful that even the most ardent critic must pause and consider his words. The depth of Alexie's stories is complemented by the self-awareness and unapologetic humor that suffuse almost every page. A --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
About the Author
Alexie is a poet, novelist, and screenwriter. He has won the Pen/Faulkner Award, Stranger Genius Award in Literature, " Boston Globe"-Horn Book Award for Excellence in Children s Literature, and the Malamud Award."
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Many of the stories in this volume, as always with Alexie, are vignettes, bringing us to a place or time or person and just introducing us. Others are short stories of people with needs that are met or not, filled with successes, failures, and not so easily labeled endings. As always, Alexie mostly writes from the view of Spokane Indians and their interactions on the rez and off the rez, with fellow tribe members and members of other tribes (not always Indian).
Overall, I really enjoyed this book. I have read pretty much everything that Alexie has written, so it was reading about old friends and meeting new ones. In the stories, I hear Alexie's voice, telling of his experiences, of his friends' and family's experiences, and of the experiences of all of us.
Alexie gets people, and not just Indian people. Oh, he does a wonderful job of showing what it's like to be Indian, from the importance of tradition and storytelling to the confliction over assimilation. He doesn't shy away from writing about the really painful stuff, like the oppressive hopelessness many Indians experience. This is not tear-jerking sentimentality but a frank, realistic portrayal of what life is like. There's no preaching here. Though Alexie gives realistic portrayals of Indians, what really surprised me was his portrayal of White people. Forgive me if I'm focusing on the wrong thing, but, as a White person, I could really relate to these characters. When it comes to books about multi-cultural interaction, I'm used to seeing White characters being presented as oblivious to racial matters, sometimes well-intentioned but almost always needing to learn some kind of moral. These characters are not like that. These characters suffer from racial dissatisfaction and guilt, and feelings of racelessness and cultural void. They sometimes do racist things, but if you're paying attention, you'll gain an understanding of why they do these things. Sometimes they want to be heroes and save the Indians to assuage their own racial guilt. Sometimes they use Indians (and others) to try to bring cultural meaning into their own lives. And sometimes, the Indians in these stories do these things, too. Everyone's trying to overcome the problems and divisions caused by race, and just by being human. There aren't really good guys and bad guys here, just people struggling with the world they live in and their own identities.
I related to and cared about these characters. The stories were interesting because I really wanted to find out what happened to them (not to mention the strong plotting and engaging writing style). There was only one that started to drag a bit for me, quite impressive for a volume this size.
IN SHORT: Sherman Alexie is an amazing author who writes frankly about the human condition. He doesn't make things seem brighter than they are or sentimentalize about tragedy. His characters are strong no matter their race; they have realistic motivations and behaviors. I loved them most when they used humor in the face of their pain. The stories here are interesting because you want to know what happens to them, plus the writing and the plotting are interesting and engaging. Sherman Alexie is a must-read author for those wanting to explore the human condition.
Some ideas to experience Alexie's work online: watch his readings and comedy presentations on youtube, read some of his wonderful poetry at poetryfoundation dot org, watch the film "Smoke Signals"--which is based on one of his short stories--on netflicks. I found them all very interesting and they make you think and feel. I hope you enjoy these, and I definitely recommend this new book by Sherman Alexie.
Blasphemy is a collection of Alexie's short stories, some of which were published in his earlier collection, The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven. Ranging in length from a couple of pages to novella size, they are accessible, powerful, often funny and always moving. Some will make you uncomfortable, some will delight, but all ring true, capturing slices of modern Indian life in the Pacific Northwest, where he lives. More than just the insights they provide into Native American culture and life on and off a reservation, they are about universal themes--love, family, belonging, alienation, poverty, humor, and much more. But Alexie doesn't hammer home the themes in hamfisted prose; he weaves them subtly throughout. It's the characters and the situations that will draw you in and keep you reading. Some of my favorites were "This Is What It Means to Say Phoenix, Arizona," "Salt," "Emigration" and "The Search Engine," but they were all good, and I literally couldn't put the book down. Alexie is a masterful writer, as gifted as one of my other favorites for short fiction, Ethan Canin, which is high praise indeed.
If you enjoy short stories and American writers, you won't go wrong with Blasphemy.
Five very enthusiastic stars.