Sunday, April 3, 2011

Indian Killer (1996)
The Toughest Indian in the World (2000)
Sherman Alexie
Weight: 2 lbs
Method of Disposal: I am giving Indian Killer to my mom because I want to know what she thinks about the end. I am giving The Toughest Indian to Yosafa because she wanted a fast, good read.

I was introduced to Sherman Alexie while I was in college, and I have loved his work ever since. I went around to local used bookstores and bought up all of his books immediately following reading The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven for the second time. I may have bought one or two from the bookstore I was working at. I read most of them soon after I got them home, but these slipped by me. I must have become invested in all of my assigned reading and forgot about them, boxed them up, and didn’t notice them again until the last week of March.

I read The Toughest Indian in the World first. I felt like it had been awhile since I read good fiction, and I was not disappointed. As usual, the writing was hilarious, embarrassing, infuriating, and heartbreaking. Alexie so easily works various identities into his stories. He does not shy away from anything. Alcoholism, sexuality, the class war, racism, sexism, any of it. People are beautiful and fat. There are losers and warriors. They are complicated, even in their simplicity.

The last story in the collection, “One Good Man,” was about an Indian man caring for his dying father and, without flourish or delusion, we are torn apart by their relationship. “Dear John Wayne” showed how obscure academia can be in the context of real life, and the parts about John Wayne were hilarious, so sad, and so believable. “The Sin Eaters” came out of nowhere and felt so unusual compared to everything else I had read by Alexie, but it was creepy and, unfortunately, believable. I highly recommend this collection of stories. 5/5 stars. I la la loved it.

Indian Killer was also good, though I did not enjoy it like I do his short fiction. I still started it first thing one morning and finished it that evening. I could not walk away from the story. The racial tensions in the story were overwhelming, brutal, and honest. One act of violence would set of a string of violence and more and more and more. Everyone would react. Hate seeped into every crevice. Everything was complicated and inescapable. Hundreds of years of anger and confusion weighing down each page. The ending, so beautiful—was it a threat? I just finished it, and I am still trying to get a hold of all my thoughts. Maybe 4 out of 5 stars?

Good stuff. I hate to see my Alexie books go. I know I will be reading quite a few of them again, but they will not be my own copies. It is because I love them so much that I am letting them go. I hope the people who receive them enjoy them and, if they don’t, I hope they will pass them on to someone else who will.

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