Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Sherman Alexie "War Dances"

Sherman Alexie makes you laugh out loud. Then think. On The Colbert Report he had Stephen Colbert speechless with a joke about smallpox blankets and "Indian Giving". The short story "War Dances" published in New Yorker has his amazing insights and some killer metaphors....I read this and laughed but when it was all done the tears lasted a little while longer. Alexie's writing does that to you.

a too-thin blanket is "more like the world's biggest coffee filter."

a coffee house, "a spotless place called Dirty Joe's"

the hospital hallway is "like a beehive with colony-collapse disorder."

"no one ever wants to read the word "malignant" unless you're reading a Charles Dickens novel about an evil landlord, but "benign" and "majority" are two words that go well together."

"...right now temporary is enough."

Lines like "Vodka straight up or with a nostalgia chaser?"

"I remember how my dad spent a lot of time in MRI tubes near the end of his life. So I was wondering what kind of music he chose. I mean, he couldn't hear...he still must have chosen something. And I wanted to choose the same thing he chose."

All his work resonants with insights from his Native American heritage (he says he's an Indian), but this story managed to capture his biting humor and irony while discussing a dying parent, cancer, MRI's, Trader Joe's, and a visit to the Vatican ("plant an eagle feather and claim that you just discovered Italy").

Excerpts from the August 10, 2009 New Yorker magazine: Sherman Alexie's fictional short "War Dances".

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