Set against the harsh reality of an unforgiving landscape and culture, The Man Who Fell in Love with the Moon provides a vision of the Old West unlike anything seen before. The narrator, Shed, is one of the most memorable characters in contemporary fiction: a half-Indian bisexual boy who lives and works at the Indian Head Hotel in the tiny town of Excellent, Idaho. It's the turn of the century, and the hotel carries on a prosperous business as the town's brothel. The eccentric characters working in the hotel provide Shed with a surrogate family, yet he finds in himself a growing need to learn the meaning of his Indian name, Duivichi-un-Dua, given to him by his mother, who was murdered when he was twelve. Setting off alone across the haunting plains, Shed goes in search of an identity among his true people, encountering a rich pageant of extraordinary characters along the way. Although he learns a great deal about the mysteries and traditions of his Indian heritage, it is not until Shed returns to Excellent and witnesses a series of brutal tragedies that he attains the wisdom that infuses this exceptional and captivating book.
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About the Author
Tom Spanbauer is the author of the novel Faraway Places. he lives in Portland, Oregon, and New Yoke City.
Read an Excerpt
There Was a Time: Killdeer
If you're the devil, then it's not me telling this story.Not me being Out-In-The-Shed.That's the name she gave me not even knowing.She being Ida Richilieu, and later, after what happened up on Devil's Pass, they called her Peg-Leg Ida.
Hey-You, and Come-Over-Here-Boy were also what I thought were my names.First ten years or so, I thought I was who those tybo words were saying.Tybo being "white man" in my language.My language being some words I still can remember.
My mother was a Bannock and she worked for Ida, cleaning, and whenever, a man took a fancy for a breed.That's how I came about--or, so I thought.My mother called me Duivichi-un-Dua which means something, which means I was somebody to have a name like that--not like Out-In-The-Shed.
Took me a long time to find out what my Indian name means.One of the reasons why is because my name's not Bannock but Shoshone, so none of the Bannock could ever tell me when I asked.Always thought my mother was Bannock. Guess she was Shoshone.Why else would she give me a Shoshone name?
My mother died when I was a kid just ten or eleven years old.
Murdered by a man named Billy Blizzard.One of the things I remember about my mother is that she gave me my name and that I was never to answer to my name because it might be the devil asking. If somebody called me by my name, I had to say that it wasn't me first off.Another thing I remember about my mother is just before I sleep and then she's only a smell and a feeling I don't have any words for.
After my mother died, I took her place at Ida's, cleaning and doing the odd jobs.Some nights,out in the shed, when the moon got too bright, and things got too still, when all I could hear was my heart beating and the breath coming fast in and out of me, I'd tiptoe up the back steps to the second story of Ida's Place and look in Ida's window.Ida Richilieu would be sitting in her room in her circle of light, the kerosene lamp making her room look the rose color.If it was winter, Ida'd be all bundled up in her quilts.If it was summer, Ida'd hardly have anything on.Winter or summer, though, you could always find Ida in her circle of light late at night, when the work was done, writing in her diaries about life and about being mayor.
Watching Ida in her circle of light, with her pen and ink, putting words down on paper, telling her human-being stories--always made you feel good.Made you feel that there were secrets you needed to find out about--or stories that you just had to hear.Made the awful pounding inside you stop.
Then there was the time I almost froze to death.Just fell asleep standing outside Ida's window looking in.Guess I fell asleep--didn't feel like sleep.I wasn't cold anymore, wasn't looking in the window, was in Ida's circle of light, the rose color on my skin, and I was lying in Ida's feather bed.
I stayed in Ida's feather bed.Me awake sometimes, Ida at the desk writing in her circle of light.Me not awake sometimes, not knowing where I was, me gone to the somewhere else you go when you go to sleep.
When I woke up for good from somewhere else, when I wasn't sick with fever anymore, sometimes Ida'd let me sleep with her in her fancy room in her feather bed.I wasn't supposed to tell anybody and I never did.With Ida, if she made you promise, then that was it.I always had to wash up good first though.
One night I was sleeping with Ida and I woke her up with what was going on.Ida always said she couldn't sleep if there was a hard-on in the room.
After the night Ida couldn't sleep, and after she saw my dick hard--well, knowing the rest of my story--even though I was no more than twelve years old--Ida figured I'd like the job.So I ended up taking on the rest of my mother's duties; that is, whenever a man took a fancy for a breed.
Berdache is what the Indian word for it is.First time I heard the word Berdache was the first time I met Dellwood Barker.He told me the word, along with the story of the Berdache named Foolish Woman, and how Foolish Woman had healed Dellwood Barker, then taught him how to fuck.
I don't know if Berdache is a Bannock word or a Shoshone word or just Indian.Heard tell it was a French word, but I don't know French, so I'm not the one to say.
What's important is that's the word: Berdache."B..E..R..D..A..C..H..E," Dellwood Barker spelled, means holy man who fucks with men."
The only tybo words I know for out in the shed, for how I am, for fucking with men, are words now that I don't use.Used to use them, though.Thought they were just more names for who I was.
Dellwood Barker changed all that, though.Came back into my life after two years of not being in my life and changed all that--what I called myself, who I thought I was.He knocked on the door of the shed.S tepped in the door.There he was, Dellwood Barker, the man who I thought was my father.Everything was different.I was different.I was somebody who had fallen in love.
I loved him hard and fast and right off and forever.
Forever had been one of Ida's words.Was one of the first words she made me learn.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
One of my favorite books of all time.
What the blurbs say: 'wise and wonderful'; 'imaginative scope'; 'so startlingly original and true that it redeems everything'.What the book actually contains: rape. Murder. Mutilation. Prejudice. More rape. Actually, pretty much anything unspeakable you can think of - it'll be in there somewhere.Life is vile enough. I don't need my literature to mirror it. To Oxfam it goes!
Initially in took me a bit to get a hang of the writing style, but when i did, I really appreciated it. The themes for me ran deeper than race, sex, or religion. Something speaks to you from between the words in way most artists are never capable of. Unearths connections buried. All done with some humor no less. This book is really a true work of Art. But don't pick it up with those kinds of expectations. read the book like it isn't going to offer you anything but a good story.
If you are Native American, African American, or GLBT you must read this book. Following the lives and tribulations of a bastard child raised in a whorehouse we get exposed to the turn of the century old west in Excellent, Idaho. A fascinating read that will question and make you reflect on everyone of your core values.
This book, which almost DEMANDS that it is read aloud, is the best portrayal of American Culture and History I have ever read in fiction.
Tom Spanbauer has managed to write a book whose prose read like poetry touching the soul with images, feelings (emotions) and desires as apposed to words-words-words. My only complaint is that he hasn't published ten million more books for me to enjoy.
If I were to recommend one book, 'The Man Who Fell in Love with the Moon' would be it. Mythical, compelling, sensitive, it captures the imagination in a way that I did not think the written word could. By far, the most impactful ficition I have been fortunate to read.