The twenty-four linked tales in Alexie’s debut collection—an instant classic—paint an unforgettable portrait of life on and around the Spokane Indian Reservation, a place where “Survival = Anger x Imagination,” where HUD houses and generations of privation intertwine with history, passion, and myth.
We follow Thomas Builds-the-Fire, the longwinded storyteller no one really listens to; his half-hearted nemesis, Victor, the basketball star turned recovering alcoholic; and a wide cast of other vividly drawn characters on a haunting journey filled with humor and sorrow, resilience and resignation, dreams and reality. Alexie’s unadulterated honesty and boundless compassion come together in a poetic vision of a world in which the gaps between past and present are not really gaps after all.
The basis for the acclaimed 1998 feature film Smoke Signals,the Chicago Tribune noted, “The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven . . . is for the American Indian what Richard Wright’s Native Son was for the black American in 1940.”
The collection received a Special Citation for the PEN/Hemingway Award for Best First Fiction.
This ebook edition features a new prologue from the author, as well as an illustrated biography and rare photos from Sherman Alexie’s personal collection.
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The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven
By Sherman Alexie
OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIACopyright © 2005 Sherman Alexie
All rights reserved.
EVERY LITTLE HURRICANE
ALTHOUGH IT WAS WINTER, the nearest ocean four hundred miles away, and the Tribal Weatherman asleep because of boredom, a hurricane dropped from the sky in 1976 and fell so hard on the Spokane Indian Reservation that it knocked Victor from bed and his latest nightmare.
It was January and Victor was nine years old. He was sleeping in his bedroom in the basement of the HUD house when it happened. His mother and father were upstairs, hosting the largest New Year's Eve party in tribal history, when the winds increased and the first tree fell.
"Goddamn it," one Indian yelled at another as the argument began. "You ain't shit, you fucking apple."
The two Indians raged across the room at each other. One was tall and heavy, the other was short, muscular. High-pressure and low-pressure fronts.
The music was so loud that Victor could barely hear the voices as the two Indians escalated the argument into a fistfight. Soon there were no voices to be heard, only guttural noises that could have been curses or wood breaking. Then the music stopped so suddenly that the silence frightened Victor.
"What the fuck's going on?" Victor's father yelled, his voice coming quickly and with force. It shook the walls of the house.
"Adolph and Arnold are fighting again," Victor's mother said. Adolph and Arnold were her brothers, Victor's uncles. They always fought. Had been fighting since the very beginning.
"Well, tell them to get their goddamn asses out of my house," Victor's father yelled again, his decibel level rising to meet the tension in the house.
"They already left," Victor's mother said. "They're fighting out in the yard."
Victor heard this and ran to his window. He could see his uncles slugging each other with such force that they had to be in love. Strangers would never want to hurt each other that badly. But it was strangely quiet, like Victor was watching a television show with the volume turned all the way down. He could hear the party upstairs move to the windows, step onto the front porch to watch the battle.
During other hurricanes broadcast on the news, Victor had seen crazy people tie themselves to trees on the beach. Those people wanted to feel the force of the hurricane firsthand, wanted it to be like an amusement ride, but the thin ropes were broken and the people were broken. Sometimes the trees themselves were pulled from the ground and both the trees and the people tied to the trees were carried away.
Standing at his window, watching his uncles grow bloody and tired, Victor pulled the strings of his pajama bottoms tighter. He squeezed his hands into fists and pressed his face tightly against the glass.
"They're going to kill each other," somebody yelled from an upstairs window. Nobody disagreed and nobody moved to change the situation. Witnesses. They were all witnesses and nothing more. For hundreds of years, Indians were witnesses to crimes of an epic scale. Victor's uncles were in the midst of a misdemeanor that would remain one even if somebody was to die. One Indian killing another did not create a special kind of storm. This little kind of hurricane was generic. It didn't even deserve a name.
Adolph soon had the best of Arnold, though, and was trying to drown him in the snow. Victor watched as his uncle held his other uncle down, saw the look of hate and love on his uncle's face and the terrified arms of his other uncle flailing uselessly.
Then it was over.
Adolph let Arnold loose, even pulled him to his feet, and they both stood, facing each other. They started to yell again, unintelligible and unintelligent. The volume grew as other voices from the party upstairs were added. Victor could almost smell the sweat and whiskey and blood.
Everybody was assessing the damage, considering options. Would the fight continue? Would it decrease in intensity until both uncles sat quietly in opposite corners, exhausted and ashamed? Could the Indian Health Service doctors fix the broken nose and sprained ankles?
But there was other pain. Victor knew that. He stood at his window and touched his own body. His legs and back hurt from a day of sledding, his head was a little sore from where he bumped into a door earlier in the week. One molar ached from cavity; his chest throbbed with absence.
Victor had seen the news footage of cities after hurricanes had passed by. Houses were flattened, their contents thrown in every direction. Memories not destroyed, but forever changed and damaged. Which is worse? Victor wanted to know if memories of his personal hurricanes would be better if he could change them. Or if he just forgot about all of it. Victor had once seen a photograph of a car that a hurricane had picked up and carried for five miles before it fell onto a house. Victor remembered everything exactly that way.
On Christmas Eve when he was five, Victor's father wept because he didn't have any money for gifts. Oh, there was a tree trimmed with ornaments, a few bulbs from the Trading Post, one string of lights, and photographs of the family with holes punched through the top, threaded with dental floss, and hung from tiny branches. But there were no gifts. Not one.
"But we've got each other," Victor's mother said, but she knew it was just dry recitation of the old Christmas movies they watched on television. It wasn't real. Victor watched his father cry huge, gasping tears. Indian tears.
Victor imagined that his father's tears could have frozen solid in the severe reservation winters and shattered when they hit the floor. Sent millions of icy knives through the air, each specific and beautiful. Each dangerous and random.
Victor imagined that he held an empty box beneath his father's eyes and collected the tears, held that box until it was full. Victor would wrap it in Sunday comics and give it to his mother.
Just the week before, Victor had stood in the shadows of his father's doorway and watched as the man opened his wallet and shook his head. Empty. Victor watched his father put the empty wallet back in his pocket for a moment, then pull it out and open it again. Still empty. Victor watched his father repeat this ceremony again and again, as if the repetition itself could guarantee change. But it was always empty.
During all these kinds of tiny storms, Victor's mother would rise with her medicine and magic. She would pull air down from empty cupboards and make fry bread. She would shake thick blankets free from old bandanas. She would comb Victor's braids into dreams.
In those dreams, Victor and his parents would be sitting in Mother's Kitchen restaurant in Spokane, waiting out a storm. Rain and lightning. Unemployment and poverty. Commodity food. Flash floods.
"Soup," Victor's father would always say. "I want a bowl of soup."
Mother's Kitchen was always warm in those dreams. There was always a good song on the jukebox, a song that Victor didn't really know but he knew it was good. And he knew it was a song from his parents' youth. In those dreams, all was good.
Sometimes, though, the dream became a nightmare and Mother's Kitchen was out of soup, the jukebox only played country music, and the roof leaked. Rain fell like drums into buckets and pots and pans set out to catch whatever they could. In those nightmares, Victor sat in his chair as rain fell, drop by drop, onto his head.
In those nightmares, Victor felt his stomach ache with hunger. In fact, he felt his whole interior sway, nearly buckle, then fall. Gravity. Nothing for dinner except sleep. Gale and unsteady barometer.
In other nightmares, in his everyday reality, Victor watched his father take a drink of vodka on a completely empty stomach. Victor could hear that near-poison fall, then hit, flesh and blood, nerve and vein. Maybe it was like lightning tearing an old tree into halves. Maybe it was like a wall of water, a reservation tsunami, crashing onto a small beach. Maybe it was like Hiroshima or Nagasaki. Maybe it was like all that. Maybe. But after he drank, Victor's father would breathe in deep and close his eyes, stretch, and straighten his neck and back. During those long drinks, Victor's father wasn't shaped like a question mark. He looked more like an exclamation point.
Some people liked the rain. But Victor hated it. Really hated it. The damp. Humidity. Low clouds and lies. Weathermen. When it was raining, Victor would apologize to everyone he talked to.
"Sorry about the weather," he would say.
Once, Victor's cousins made him climb a tall tree during a rainstorm. The bark was slick, nearly impossible to hold on to, but Victor kept climbing. The branches kept most of the rain off him, but there were always sudden funnels of water that broke through, startling enough to nearly make Victor lose his grip. Sudden rain like promises, like treaties. But Victor held on.
There was so much that Victor feared, so much his intense imagination created. For years, Victor feared that he was going to drown while it was raining, so that even when he thrashed through the lake and opened his mouth to scream, he would taste even more water falling from the sky. Sometimes he was sure that he would fall from the top of the slide or from a swing and a whirlpool would suddenly appear beneath him and carry him down into the earth, drown him at the core.
And of course, Victor dreamed of whiskey, vodka, tequila, those fluids swallowing him just as easily as he swallowed them. When he was five years old, an old Indian man drowned in a mud puddle at the powwow. Just passed out and fell facedown into the water collected in a tire track. Even at five, Victor understood what that meant, how it defined nearly everything. Fronts. Highs and lows. Thermals and undercurrents. Tragedy.
When the hurricane descended on the reservation in 1976, Victor was there to record it. If the video camera had been available then, Victor might have filmed it, but his memory was much more dependable.
His uncles, Arnold and Adolph, gave up the fight and walked back into the house, into the New Year's Eve party, arms linked, forgiving each other. But the storm that had caused their momentary anger had not died. Instead, it moved from Indian to Indian at the party, giving each a specific, painful memory.
Victor's father remembered the time his own father was spit on as they waited for a bus in Spokane.
Victor's mother remembered how the Indian Health Service doctor sterilized her moments after Victor was born.
Adolph and Arnold were touched by memories of previous battles, storms that continually haunted their lives. When children grow up together in poverty, a bond is formed that is stronger than most anything. It's this same bond that causes so much pain. Adolph and Arnold reminded each other of their childhood, how they hid crackers in their shared bedroom so they would have something to eat.
"Did you hide the crackers?" Adolph asked his brother so many times that he still whispered that question in his sleep.
Other Indians at the party remembered their own pain. This pain grew, expanded. One person lost her temper when she accidentally brushed the skin of another. The forecast was not good. Indians continued to drink, harder and harder, as if anticipating. There's a fifty percent chance of torrential rain, blizzardlike conditions, seismic activity. Then there's a sixty percent chance, then seventy, eighty.
Victor was back in his bed, lying flat and still, watching the ceiling lower with each step above. The ceiling lowered with the weight of each Indian's pain, until it was just inches from Victor's nose. He wanted to scream, wanted to pretend it was just a nightmare or a game invented by his parents to help him sleep.
The voices upstairs continued to grow, take shape and fill space until Victor's room, the entire house, was consumed by the party. Until Victor crawled from his bed and went to find his parents.
"Ya-hey, little nephew," Adolph said as Victor stood alone in a corner.
"Hello, Uncle," Victor said and gave Adolph a hug, gagged at his smell. Alcohol and sweat. Cigarettes and failure.
"Where's my dad?" Victor asked.
"Over there," Adolph said and waved his arm in the general direction of the kitchen. The house was not very large, but there were so many people and so much emotion filling the spaces between people that it was like a maze for little Victor. No matter which way he turned, he could not find his father or mother.
"Where are they?" he asked his aunt Nezzy.
"Who?" she asked.
"Mom and Dad," Victor said, and Nezzy pointed toward the bedroom. Victor made his way through the crowd, hated his tears. He didn't hate the fear and pain that caused them. He expected that. What he hated was the way they felt against his cheeks, his chin, his skin as they made their way down his face. Victor cried until he found his parents, alone, passed out on their bed in the back bedroom.
Victor climbed up on the bed and lay down between them. His mother and father breathed deep, nearly choking alcoholic snores. They were sweating although the room was cold, and Victor thought the alcohol seeping through their skin might get him drunk, might help him sleep. He kissed his mother's neck, tasted the salt and whiskey. He kissed his father's forearm, tasted the cheap beer and smoke.
Victor closed his eyes tightly. He said his prayers just in case his parents had been wrong about God all those years. He listened for hours to every little hurricane spun from the larger hurricane that battered the reservation.
During that night, his aunt Nezzy broke her arm when an unidentified Indian woman pushed her down the stairs. Eugene Boyd broke a door playing indoor basketball. Lester FallsApart passed out on top of the stove and somebody turned the burners on high. James Many Horses sat in the corner and told so many bad jokes that three or four Indians threw him out the door into the snow.
"How do you get one hundred Indians to yell Oh, shit?" James Many Horses asked as he sat in a drift on the front lawn.
"Say Bingo," James Many Horses answered himself when nobody from the party would.
James didn't spend very much time alone in the snow. Soon Seymour and Lester were there, too. Seymour was thrown out because he kept flirting with all the women. Lester was there to cool off his burns. Soon everybody from the party was out on the lawn, dancing in the snow, fucking in the snow, fighting in the snow.
Victor lay between his parents, his alcoholic and dreamless parents, his mother and father. Victor licked his index finger and raised it into the air to test the wind. Velocity. Direction. Sleep approaching. The people outside seemed so far away, so strange and imaginary. There was a downshift of emotion, tension seemed to wane. Victor put one hand on his mother's stomach and placed the other on his father's. There was enough hunger in both, enough movement, enough geography and history, enough of everything to destroy the reservation and leave only random debris and broken furniture.
But it was over. Victor closed his eyes, fell asleep. It was over. The hurricane that fell out of the sky in 1976 left before sunrise, and all the Indians, the eternal survivors, gathered to count their losses.CHAPTER 2
A DRUG CALLED TRADITION
"GODDAMN IT, THOMAS," JUNIOR yelled. "How come your fridge is always fucking empty?"
Thomas walked over to the refrigerator, saw it was empty, and then sat down inside.
"There," Thomas said. "It ain't empty no more."
Everybody in the kitchen laughed their asses off. It was the second-largest party in reservation history and Thomas Builds-the-Fire was the host. He was the host because he was the one buying all the beer. And he was buying all the beer because he had just got a ton of money from Washington Water Power. And he just got a ton of money from Washington Water Power because they had to pay for the lease to have ten power poles running across some land that Thomas had inherited.
When Indians make lots of money from corporations that way, we can all hear our ancestors laughing in the trees. But we never can tell whether they're laughing at the Indians or the whites. I think they're laughing at pretty much everybody.
"Hey, Victor," Junior said. "I hear you got some magic mushrooms."
"No way," I said. "Just Green Giant mushrooms. I'm making salad later."
But I did have this brand new drug and had planned on inviting Junior along. Maybe a couple Indian princesses, too. But only if they were full-blood. Well, maybe if they were at least half-Spokane.
"Listen," I whispered to Junior to keep it secret. "I've got some good stuff, a new drug, but just enough for me and you and maybe a couple others. Keep it under your warbonnet."
"Cool," Junior said. "I've got my new car outside. Let's go."
Excerpted from The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven by Sherman Alexie. Copyright © 2005 Sherman Alexie. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
- Every Little Hurricane
- A Drug Called Tradition
- Because My Father Always Said He Was the Only Indian Who Saw Jimi Hendrix Play "The Star-Spangled Banner" at Woodstock
- Crazy Horse Dreams
- The Only Traffic Signal on the Reservation Doesn't Flash Red Anymore
- This Is What It Means to Say Phoenix, Arizona
- The Fun House
- All I Wanted to Do Was Dance
- The Trial of Thomas Builds-the-Fire
- Jesus Christ's Half-Brother Is Alive and Well on the Spokane Indian Reservation
- A Train Is an Order of Occurrence Designed to Lead to Some Result
- A Good Story
- The First Annual All-Indian Horseshoe Pitch and Barbecue
- Imagining the Reservation
- The Approximate Size of My Favorite Tumor
- Indian Education
- The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven
- Family Portrait
- Somebody Kept Saying Powwow
- Witnesses, Secret and Not
- Junior Polatkin's Wild West Show
- A Biography of Sherman Alexie
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Mr. Sherman weaves together inter connected stories about the plight of the Native Americans on one particular reservation in the state of Washington. The novel comprises wit and heart wenching testimony from characters like Victor and Thomas about growing up Indian and the poverty they faced. Even though the culture of Native Americans is often mentioned, this book is completley universal. It's at times a coming of age tale, at other points it's historical, and in a few instances, the reader sees magic. The prose is brillantly composed in a manner that will quickly engage the reader. If you love short stories, then you will love this. If you hate short stories, this will take some getting use to but you'll quickly see the payoff. Also, the last two stories included in the collection make the overall novel all the more poignant.
I feel a bit mixed about this book, which is a collection of 22 connected short stories, some in first and some in third person. The book was on a list of recommended literary fiction. Picking it up, I realized that though I've read many a book by African Americans, several assigned in school, I couldn't recall ever reading a work of fiction by a Native American about Native Americans. I found myself jotting down the unfamiliar or recurring words and themes, wanting to learn more later: frybread, salmon, commodity cheese, alcoholism, diabetes, sweathouse, longhouse, HUD, fancydancing, owldancing, basketball, powwow, tipi, braids, ribbon shirt, five hundred years. That glimpse into another world, the world of the Spokane Indian Reservation, is a lot of what kept me reading, but I wondered at times when Alexie was giving us a look behind the stereotypes or playing with them. Especially given the touches of magical realism, I found myself wishing at times this was straight memoir and not (as admitted in the introduction) autobiographically inspired fiction. This is a very bleak book--so much of it dealt with drunkenness and alcoholism and the self-destructive behavior it engenders, sprinkled with historical grievance and the experience of present-day bigotry and a terrible poverty. The most upbeat tale in the book revolved around a terminally ill cancer patient: "The Approximate Size of My Favorite Tumor." Two of the other standouts for me were "Fun House," about a women who finally has had it with the behavior of her husband and son, and "Indian Education." Here's a quote from that story that stuck with me: "The farm town high school I play for is nicknamed the "Indians," and I'm probably the only actual Indian ever to play for a team with such a mascot. This morning I pick up the sports page and read the headline: INDIANS LOSE AGAIN. Go ahead and tell me none of this is supposed to hurt me very much." I think that's a passage that captures a lot about the book. Clean, spare style, sometimes lyrical, spiked with a dark humor. I find myself dithering about the rating here. I don't know if it's a book that I can say I enjoyed, or one where the individual stories impressed--I think it's one where the whole is more than its parts, but the repeated (and repetitive) notes of hopelessness ground me down. However, the book did make me think and a time or two broke my heart a little, and I think it'll stay with me.
The impulse to soldier on is both ruthlessly crushed and highly encouraged on the Spokane reservation. Victor and Thomas represent the stark contrast between relentless destruction and toughened hopefulness of the human spirit. The struggle to hold onto some loose foothold in their past as they pursue their blank futures littered with broken dreams, alcohol, and introspective dreaming. Sherman Alexie¿s Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven is both written as a literary novel, and interwoven poetry pounding to the beat of tribal drums and chorusing lines of `John Wayne¿s Teeth.¿ It is hard to tell when the author is being melodramatic, or when a joke, so dry and intensely real, has escaped my attention. It is hard to tell what is meant to be funny and what is meant to rent the soul. I found myself laughing when I should have been crying. Overall, there is no moment greater than Thomas¿s grandstand as the great storyteller of the reservation. Though his stories have been told a thousand times, he has now withdrawn from his silence and returned to his creative genius. He represents part of the character of the novelist in that he wishes to return to a broken, shifting past in order to escape the hypocrisy of his present. Victor represents the other side of the jaded coin. He is angry, thoughtless, and acts out because he feels lost within himself and his environment. He represents the inability of the Native Americans to feel at home in what should have been their country, and the toughness they must exhibit to make it bearable. The two opposing viewpoints are only supported by a slew of characters with which these vivid people are described. When I reflected on the book I was surprised by the sense of detachment I felt. The wicked humor of the writer in his highway weatherman, road trips to phoenix, and flatbread crisis was what made the book bearable when the characters were drowning in their own irony.
Alexie's characters are not just native, they are human. So few literary images of the Indian-(Feather, not dot)-Native-American-Indigineous-Person-Noble-Savage portray the depth of character and individuality he does so adeptly. You'll laugh, you'll cry and you may even UNDERSTAND. So what's so funny about peace, love and understanding? In this collection of stories you may find out.
This really brought me back home in some distubing yet amusing way. Nice change from the very hard to read reality books that I have read. Anyone that have lived on a rez can relate and laught, and truly understand the way of life on the rez with a twist that Alexie is portraying. It was a really fun read.
Bittersweet, often funny, vignettes about the harsh realities of life on the res.
I was prompted to read Sherman Alexie's stories because . . . well I've always wanted to read some of his work. And I had the opportunity to watch the movie "Smoke Signals," which I enjoyed very much. Alexie's collection of short stories focus on the lives of people young and old on the Spokane reservation in eastern Washington State. Though many of the stories have moments of laugh out loud humor, it is painted against a background of poverty, alcoholism and cultural isolation. I think my favorite stories are "The Trial of Thomas Builds the Fire" and "The Approximate Size of My Favorite Tumor," but all in the collection were worth reading.
Sherman Alexie is certainly a fresh voice in American literature. With straightforward prose this collection of linked stories establishes the themes that he will revisit in most of his later work. We see the poor, desperate state of Native Americans on the Rez, but also their joys and triumphs. America is a better place because of Alexie's work.
Sherman Alexie writes wonderful prose and poetry. It is very abrupt and very lyrical at the same time. His imagery is wonderful to read, though the stories are often sad or difficult to read (that because of content not style). Alexie's point of view is original and sometimes controversial, but always great to read.
The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven is a collection of short stories set on a contemporary Indian reservation. The stories, loosely interconnected, focus on the lives of Victor, Junior, and Thomas Builds the Fire, weaving back and forth between childhoods marked by alcoholic parents and adulthoods of broken dreams. The collection is both a eulogy for a lost culture and a testament to the bleak lives awaiting the children of a broken people, but each story relates these themes in a unique way. Some of them are harsh and realistic, while others drift into fantasy, post-apocalyptic science fiction, and magic realism inspired by the legends of Native American culture. What ties the story together is the unique rhythm of Alexie's prose, coupled with a sense of humor that keeps these sad stories from becoming too depressing to read. This is a rare glimpse into a world too few of us see or understand, and it left an impression on me that I'm sure will linger for awhile.
These short stories are a mixture of tragedy, comedy, and very definitely, realism. They are a poignant look into the Native American culture that has been decimated by modern life and the loss of their old ways. At the same time, it is a look into the ties that bind and in spite of much of the dysfunctional lives we see, we yearn to have the same connection between family members and friends that are found in these stories.
So what is reservation realism? Through the course of these twenty-four interconnected short stories you learn of life on the Spokane Indian Reservation and of the many Native Americans who call it home. Victor Joseph and his family and friends, like Thomas Builds-the-Fire are the narrative centers. The stories of the modern Indians are not very hopeful, and are drenched in alcoholism and all kinds of abuse. Despite these characters being the victims of circumstance, Sherman Alexie makes these stories easier to handle with humor and unforgettable characters.I¿m usually a person who tries to block out reality and search for ¿happily ever afters,¿ but despite that I still loved this book. Alexie¿s humorous voice and beautiful prose made this collection so dear to my heart. The characters in this book are searching for their different versions of happy and some might never get it, but that¿s not stopping them from trying.One of my favorites from this book is the title story where Victor returns to the reservation from living in Seattle with his white girlfriend.The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven is poetic and real. It¿s the perfect Sherman Alexie book to start with, because once you read this one, you¿ll want to read more.
A ten anniversary edition of Sherman Alexie¿s first short story collection that focuses on the lives of Native Americans on a Spokane, Washington reservation. The book provides the reader with a sense of the importance of oral history to the traditions of Native American storytelling. The collection also exhibits how suffering is a constant presence in Native American lore as it is a constant presence in their daily lives. Another informative aspect of the work is that of magical realism¿how it is not a technique employed by the storyteller, but rather inherently and inextricably ingrained in the culture, which is representative of the causes for conflict with characters from the white, dominant society.Wonderful collection.
A collection of short, extremely simple and clear stories - as Alexie's forward in the edition I read points out, these are almost like skeleton stories - bare bones, little description of physical attributes or places - which makes the characters shine through all the more clearly. The stories are collected and not chronological; you are hit with realizations throughout the book about who someone in a previous story was.The stories are engaging, and make you think, and stand out from the crowd a bit. I'd recommend them to everyone.
The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven is a collection of inter-related short stories, that all take place on the Spokane Indian Reservation in Washington. Alexie does a great job of evoking a very bittersweet atmosphere about the reservation, and as the same cast of characters are woven in and out of each of the stories, so we get a sense of their community and relationships and struggles.But the greatest conflicts in these stories aren't from relationships, but from the attempt to reconcile being an American Indian in a modern American culture that doesn't especially care about American Indians. They love and cling tight to their traditions, but also see the inevitable motions toward assimilation. And really, everything that they gained from assimilating is bad: alcoholism, homophobia, fathers walking out on their families and children. The book raises the question of what American Indians should be asking of America - or rather, what they *can* ask of America.
A series of 24 short stories of interwoven characters who reside on a Spokane Washington Indian reservation.Alexie is an incredible writer who paints vivid images of reality and poetry blended together.Many of the stories, while depressing, are also hopeful.There is a passion and a desperate attempt to make sense of the life of the American Indian, rich in past tradition trying to survive in the current modern world.Disinfranchized and living marginally, exisiting in substandard HUD housing, Alexie's stories combine the hope of better opportunities while paradoxically depicting lives filled with alcoholism and self imposed defeat.Alexie's writing is mythological in scope and I highly recommend this book.
I feel a bit mixed about this book, which is a collection of 22 connected short stories, some in first and some in third person. The book was on a list of recommended literary fiction. Picking it up, I realized that though I've read many a book by African Americans, several assigned in school, I couldn't recall ever reading a work of fiction by a Native American about Native Americans. I found myself jotting down the unfamiliar or recurring words and themes, wanting to learn more later: frybread, salmon, commodity cheese, alcoholism, diabetes, sweathouse, longhouse, HUD, fancydancing, owldancing, basketball, powwow, tipi, braids, ribbon shirt, five hundred years.That glimpse into another world, the world of the Spokane Indian Reservation, is a lot of what kept me reading, but I wondered at times when Alexie was giving us a look behind the stereotypes or playing with them. Especially given the touches of magical realism, I found myself wishing at times this was straight memoir and not (as admitted in the introduction) autobiographically inspired fiction.This is a very bleak book--so much of it dealt with drunkenness and alcoholism and the self-destructive behavior it engenders, sprinkled with historical grievance and the experience of present-day bigotry and a terrible poverty. The most upbeat tale in the book revolved around a terminally ill cancer patient: "The Approximate Size of My Favorite Tumor." Two of the other standouts for me were "Fun House," about a women who finally has had it with the behavior of her husband and son, and "Indian Education." Here's a quote from that story that stuck with me: The farm town high school I play for is nicknamed the "Indians," and I'm probably the only actual Indian ever to play for a team with such a mascot. This morning I pick up the sports page and read the headline: INDIANS LOSE AGAIN. Go ahead and tell me none of this is supposed to hurt me very much.I think that's a passage that captures a lot about the book. Clean, spare style, sometimes lyrical, spiked with a dark humor. I find myself dithering about the rating here. I don't know if it's a book that I can say I enjoyed, or one where the individual stories impressed--I think it's one where the whole is more than its parts, but the repeated (and repetitive) notes of hopelessness ground me down. However, the book did make me think and a time or two broke my heart a little, and I think it'll stay with me.
Great short story collection. The movie is Reservation Blues.
I read this book when it was first published but had lost my copy in a move and was happy when I recently found it again. I grew up in a small town not far from the Spokane Reservation and have several friends from there and had spent time there. Mr. Alexie's writing is so indicative of that place. Although the book is fiction, it is told with such realism. His writing style is unique and sparse but speaks volumes about the characters and gives a clear idea of what reservation life may be like. It gently speaks about issues relevant to modern Indians and native pride. It made me homesick but at the same time reminded me clearly why I left. A great book.
A collection of linked short stories -- some of them more brief character studies or bits of commentary than stories, really -- set on a Spokane Indian reservation, among characters suffering from poverty, alcoholism, and the dull ache of being crushed under the weight of someone else's history while slowly losing your own. I had somewhat mixed feelings about the writing; there are places where it feels almost a little too aggressively literary for my tastes, if that makes any sense. But at its best, it has a kind of bitter poetry, with a wry sense of humor underneath it, and a bleak sense of despair under that.Also, Alexie is a genius at titles.
At first I was not sure I would like this book. I have seen Sherman Alexie intervied and must say that he is very funny. For some reason I thought that this book would be like that and was horribly disappointed for the first 1/2 of the book. By the time I was finished I was glad that I had read it. He does a very good job of showing the dreams of the average Native American pitted against the reality of reservation life. At times humorous, and at other times depressing, but it's worth reading.
A short but tight collection of short stories, the basis for the movie "Smoke Signals." Set on the Coeur d'Alene reservation, the stories focus on forgiving our fathers. Plays on the strong Indian stereotypes with humor.
After reading this book, I would highly recommend it for use in courses studying Native American literature and cultures, as well as for anyone interested in Native American literature and cultures. The book lends itself well to further exploration of issues that Native Americans are facing today as well as analysis of recurring themes in Native American literature. In this book the issues that Alexie highlights are those such as poverty, alcoholism, and health issues, just to name a few; the recurring themes he speaks to are those such as land, memory, humor, assimilation, kinship, spirituality, alcoholism, and feminism. I would also recommend this book because of its shifting perspectives, which allow for a more comprehensive look at the Spokane Reservation. The shifting perspectives also demonstrate that while the characters might have similar trials and tribulations to face, they deal with them differently, that they are separate individuals, and it shows that people have different views of the world around them. It gives each person a distinct identity and prevents all Native Americans from being viewed as one stereotypical person, or culture. And finally, I would recommend this book because of its credibility in speaking to these issues and themes. Alexie has a strong ethos as both an author and in his heritage. Overall, I would highly recommend this book, both for classroom use and for reading for pleasure.
this book had funny and good metaphors and its just like me.