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Blasphemy

[new and Selected Stories]

Alexie, Sherman

(Book - 2012)
Average Rating: 4 stars out of 5.
Blasphemy
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Combines fifteen of the author's classic short stories with fifteen new stories in an anthology that features tales involving donkey basketball leagues, lethal wind turbines, and marriage. In these comfort-zone-destroying tales, including the masterpiece, War Dances, characters grapple with racism, damaging stereotypes, poverty, alcoholism, diabetes, and the tragic loss of languages and customs. Questions of authenticity and identity abound.
Publisher: New York : Grove Press ; [Berkeley, CA] : Distributed by Publishers Group West, ©2012.
Edition: 1st ed.
ISBN: 0802120393
9780802120397
Characteristics: viii, 465 pages ;,24 cm

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Dec 26, 2013
  • JCLChrisK rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

It seems to me that all fiction writing falls somewhere on a continuum between barely-disguised autobiographical stories at one end and exploratory role-playing and the imagining of diverse perspectives at the other. Without knowing much about Sherman Alexie the man, this collection of short stories feels much closer to the autobiographical end of that spectrum to me--I don't get the sense that he's exploring different aspects of the human condition so much as different aspects of himself, dissecting his experiences in myriad ways and extrapolating the parts in different directions in an attempt to understand and express his identity. His particulars matter, and many of them* make repeat appearances in different ways in different stories. Yet by looking at his particulars and his place in the world through so many different lenses he allows us as readers to see ourselves and his connections to our experiences of the human condition after all.
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Alexie is articulate, eloquent, sardonic, witty, open, honest, and searing. His writing is always entertaining, confessional, poignant, revelatory, and painful. Even as I wanted to dwell on each story and plumb its depths for insight and meaning, I found it hard to put the book down and not immediately devour the next one. I'm going to have to find a copy of this at a used bookstore after returning my library copy so I can revisit the stories one at a time sometime later.

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"If she lived with a white person, Corliss knew she'd quickly be seen as ordinary, because she was ordinary. It's tough to share a bathroom with an Indian and continue to romanticize her. If word got around that Corliss was ordinary, even boring, she feared she'd lose her power and magic. She knew there would come a day when white folks finally understood that Indians are every bit as relentlessly boring, selfish, and smelly as they are, and that would be a wonderful day for human rights but a terrible day for Corliss."

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*Off the top of my head, elements that kept recurring:
- Being a Spokane Indian
- Living in Washington (state)
- Leaving the reservation school for a white high school
- Playing basketball
- Attending college
- Being Catholic
- Coming from poverty
- Living an urban, educated, middle class life
- Infidelity
- Sexual exploration
- Being a student of literature; being a writer
(And, of course, all the things that recur in any collection of stories, things like family, cultural identity, love, and so on.)

Oct 19, 2013
  • ravenread rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

Literary shaman

Jun 16, 2013
  • thomd rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

I really enjoyed most of the stories in this collection, and who doesn't love Sherman Alexie? (Jun 3-15)

Feb 18, 2013
  • ksoles rated this: 4 stars out of 5.

Interpreter and observer, sometimes angry but always humourous, Sherman Alexie displays his mastery of the form in his latest collection of short stories.

The theme of "Blasphemy" occurs throughout the book; someone has always committed a sin though often not wittingly. One character, a heavy drinker in need of help to bail out some prized pawned regalia, remains a fundamentally decent person despite a lifetime of errors. Another laments that, once you start seeing your loved one as a criminal, love ceases to exist. As usual, Alexie mainly stages Indians of the Northwest as his protagonists but he includes endless possibilities for misinterpretation among his characters, as when a Spokane encounters three mysterious Aleuts who sing him only permissible songs: “All the others are just for our people.”

Longtime readers will find this profound, affecting collection full of both familiar themes and surprises.

Jan 23, 2013
  • okbookgirl rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

Alexie is a master of the short story. These stories are sometimes difficult, sometimes funny, sometimes heartbreaking...but always amazing. His characters are mainly First Nation, but he writes about us all - trying to make it through, trying to be good people, getting into messes, making bad or good choices, being forgiven, finding redemption. It is hard to pick a favourite but I think mine is the closing story "What You Pawn I Will Redeem".

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Jun 04, 2014
  • Sherahughes rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

In this world we must love the liars or go unloved.

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