New and Selected Storiesby Sherman Alexie
New and selected stories from two decades of writing by the National Book Award-winning, best-selling, inimitable national treasure, Sherman Alexie.
Sherman Alexie’s stature as a writer of stories, poetry, and novels has soared over the course of his twenty-book, twenty-year career. His wide-ranging, acclaimed fiction throughout the last two decades, from The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven to his most recent PEN/Faulkner Award-winning War Dances, have established him as a star in contemporary American literature.
A bold and irreverent observer of life among Native Americans in the Pacific Northwest, the daring, versatile, funny, and outrageous Alexie showcases his many talents in Blasphemy, where he unites fifteen beloved classics with fifteen new stories in one sweeping anthology for devoted fans and first-time readers. Included here are some of his most esteemed tales, including “What You Pawn I Will Redeem,” in which a homeless Indian man quests to win back a family heirloom; “This Is What It Means to Say Phoenix, Arizona,” a road-trip morality tale; “The Toughest Indian in the World,” about a night shared between a writer and a hitchhiker; and his most recent, “War Dances,” about a man grappling with sudden hearing loss in the wake of his father’s death. Alexie’s new stories are fresh and quintessential, about donkey basketball leagues, lethal wind turbines, a twenty-four hour Asian manicure salon, good and bad marriages, and all species of warriors in America today.
An indispensable Alexie collection, Blasphemy reminds us, on every thrilling page, why he is one of our greatest contemporary writers and a true master of the short story.
“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.” —Hextor Tobar, 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.” —Eric Liebetrau, 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.” —Michael Lindgren, The Washington Post
“A timely reminder of Alexie’s genius.” —John Burnside, 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. Again, Alexie draws out laughter, even as a reader struggles to understand the overwhelming sadness these tales can evoke. . . . The strength of Alexie’s work is his unrepentant exploration of what it means to be ‘other.’ . . . Alexie’s affectionate tweaks at Native American culture are wonderfully done. . . . Blasphemy is blasphemous only in disrespecting the boundaries that many would place on those who mine otherness.” —Susana Olague Trapani, Washington Independent Review of Books
“[Blasphemy] haunts the reader with men whose choices lead to misfortune. One can also expect the humor and small redemptions that are present in Alexie’s best work.” —Time Out New York (5 stars)
“[Alexie] has been celebrated for his acerbic, funny, politically charged stories. . . . Tenderness along with passion—governable or otherwise—are elements as pervasive in his impressive body of work as his subversive humor, his grief and outrage over the exploitation and neglect of indigenous populations in the United States. . . . If literary fiction in its purest form is meant to be an accurate reflection of human experience and its inevitable ambiguities, Alexie skillfully offers us this in Blasphemy. . . . What Alexie makes poignantly clear in the stories he has written in his long and robust career is that we cannot choose whom we fall in love with, nor can we choose who, fundamentally, we are.” —Christine Sneed, San Francisco Chronicle
“Alexie has a wonderful ear for snappy vernacular, pithy dialogue, and mordant humour.” —Leyla Sanai, The Independent
“Sweet, salty, and full of heart . . . In his stories [Alexie’s] stories are wide open to love and death, fathers and sons, grief and loss, and the multiple dilemmas of marriage and race and waking up pathetically human. His stories speed along, most first-person narration, in a voice so captivating you don’t want him (or her) to stop.” —James P. Lenfestey, Star-Tribune (Minneapolis)
“Shot through with emotional strain . . . A powerful thwap against mainstream knowledge of American Indians . . . Each story is a page-turner . . . a series of literary sprints, each one quickening your heart rate and leaving you pausing to catch your breath before you’re on to the next.” —Huffington Post
“You’ll finish this first-rate collection wanting more.” —People
“The supreme irony of all identity writing . . . is that the literary trick does not click unless everyone is in on it. . . . Sherman Alexie, with his shamanistic convicts, drunken fathers, homeless heroes, and gay boxers, understands this imp or inclusion to an almost supernatural fault. . . . Alexie’s voice, for so long the go-to growl of the contemporary American Indian experience, seems to have gotten braver with age. . . . Alexie’s authority here is an inclusive comic sorrow that befits the entire world.” —Robert Ontiveros, Dallas News
“A beautiful anthology . . . Each character is distinctly memorable. . . . [Alexie] leads his readers through a minefield or grave situations while turning back to wink and crack jokes along the way.” —Laura Smith Terry, Brooklyn Rail
“Blasphemy succeeds in placing new stories within the solid foundation of what are now Alexie classics. The result is a thoughtfully arranged overview of Alexie’s most important themes and some of his most loved characters, complemented by dynamic new work.” —Mona Moraru, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette< "A masterful gift . . . It takes a special talent to tackle despair and isolation while maintaining an overarching optimism. . . . Alexie writes concisely and simply, which makes following the author's whimsy a breezy joy and constant surprise. The stories teeter between serious, philosophical musings and bitter sarcasm, which together give the stories a unique rhythm. . . . Blasphemy acts as Alexie’s definitive statement about common human experiences.” —Cameron Mount, Daily Nebraskan
“Brilliant . . . A fearless two-decade examination of Sherman Alexie’s Native America, and also a testament to his mastery of the short-story form.” —Dimitri Nasrallah, The Toronto Star
“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)
“An unsettling and very American panorama.” —Vogue (Fall’s Standout Fiction)
“Like the best storytellers, Alexie can toss off heartbreakingly expressive and profound sentiments with a humor and nonchalance that cleverly conceal their gravity. It’s these deceptively poignant moments that drive Alexie’s work and provide an earthly backdrop to the cosmic swap meets of our souls. . . . [He] translates the beauty of his forbears’ straightforward philosophy into a jarring and transcendent literary experience. . . . Told with his hallmark wit and candor [Blasphemy] captures the splendors of [Alexie’s] considerable talent.” —Kit Mauldin, Portland Monthly
“Highlights Alexie’s unique ability to create deeply moving and thought-provoking stories that can make you laugh out loud and simultaneously break your heart . . . Alexie’s stories do not shy away from depicting the poverty, addiction, and violence that affects many Native American communities, but he explores these darker aspects of life with biting humor and a lot of compassion, letting the joy shine through as well. . . . Explores the universal themes of relationships and identity along with the thornier issues of American life, like race and class, with remarkable heart and humor.” —Kasia Hopkins, The News-Gazette (Illinois)
“An outstanding collection of stories by a masterful, and very important, storyteller . . . Alexie is a kickass writer, period, and the depth and emotional power of his stories stems from his ability to put words on the page in compelling and effective ways. . . . Anyone with an interest in the current state of American writing should read this book. . . . Alexie is a writer unlike any other working today.” —David Mane, PopMatters
“Wry observations and get-you-thinking commentary . . . Humor that pounces on readers without warning . . . Savor each story and let it hit you slowly.” —Terri Schlichenmeyer, Appeal-Democrat.com
PRAISE FOR SHERMAN ALEXIE’s STORIES:
“Alexie is often messy and in-your-face in a way that can make you laugh (or shudder) when you least expect to. . . . War Dances is Alexie’s fiercely freewheeling collection of stories and poems about the tragicomedies of ordinary lives.” —O, The Oprah Magazine
“Poetic and unremittingly honest . . . 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.” —Chicago Tribune
“Stunning . . . Alexie’s prose startles and dazzles with unexpected, impossible-to-anticipate moves. These are cultural love stories, and we laugh on every page with fists tight around our hearts.” —The Boston Globe on The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven
“Funny, irreverent, sardonic but sentimental, rebellious . . . [Alexie is] mocking, self-mocking, unpredictable, unassimilable, reminding us of the young Philip Roth.” —The New York Review of Books on The Toughest Indian in the World
Kirkus Reviews Top 25 Fiction Books of 2012
New York Times Notable Book of 2012
Forget crack, my cousin said, meth is the new war dancer.
World champion, he said.
Grand Entry, he said.
Five bucks, he said, give me five bucks and I’ll give you enough meth to put you on a Vision Quest.
For a half-assed Indian, he sure talked full-on spiritual. He was a born-again Indian. At the age of twenty-five, he war danced for the first time. Around the same day he started dealing drugs.
I’m traditional, he said.
Rule is: whenever an Indian says he’s traditional, you know that Indian is full of shit.
But, not long after my cousin started dancing, the powwow committee chose him as Head Man Dancer. Meaning: he was charming and popular. Powwow is like high school, except with more feathers and beads.
He took drugs, too, so he was doomed. But what Indian isn’t doomed? Anyway, the speed made him dance for hours. Little fucker did somersaults. I’ve seen maybe three somersaulting war dancers in my own life.
You war dance that good, you become a rock star. You get groupies. The Indian women will line up to braid your hair.
No, I don’t wear rubbers, he said, I want to be God and repopulate the world in my image. I wondered, since every Indian boy either looks like a girl or like a chicken with a big belly and skinny legs, how he could tell which kids were his.