June 2nd, 2009
|11:09 pm - Sometimes Stories with Long and Intricate Titles Aren't That Good, Unfortunately|
Do you know who Sherman Alexie is?
After loving one book and really liking another by Sherman Alexie, I was excited to read his first collection of short stories, The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven. I really enjoyed the Introduction.
Maybe I should have stopped there?
Out of the 24 short stories in the collection, I liked...5? 6? "This Is What It Means to Say Phoenix, Arizona," about two friends (or "friends") going to bury one of their fathers. "The Approximate Size of My Favorite Tumor," about a marriage crumbling after the husband is diagnosed with terminal cancer but continues to use humor as a defense mechanism. "Indian Education," about...Indian education. "Witnesses, Secret and Not," about a boy and his dad traveling to answer questions about an unsolved murder. "Junior Polatkin's Wild West Show," about an Indian guy hooking up with a white girl at college.
This handful of stories I enjoyed (most were buried at the end). I cared about the characters and what was happening to them. I'm not certain whether I liked them objectively or whether they were simply good in comparison to the rest.
Which were inscrutable, boring, and almost off-putting at times. It's obvious Alexie is a poet, as he tends to be very lyrical. And it's obvious Alexie is an Indian, as he is depicting the modern Indian Experience in all its drunken glory. But I think the problem I had with most of the book is that I thought the insights and arguments and anecdotes would have been better served in essays or poems; a lot of the stories seemed constructed around the opportunity to use this One Great Line. And a lot just had that One Great Line thrown in there at the end as if that would give it the proper impact except the goddamn story had done nothing to illuminate the point he was trying to make. Scattered throughout were many interesting observations and sad proclamations that did give me insight into what it's like to be a Native American today, but I could barely appreciate them because they seemed so shoehorned into each story, which generally went nowhere or dicked around in faux magical realism and metaphor. Sometimes I liked little parts of a story but then it just ended and I wondered what the fuck the point of it all was.
I had to force myself to keep going after story after unsatisfactory story, hoping that at some point they would get good (and, as I said, most of the ones I liked are near the end). The fact that they were all interconnected with recurring characters was neat, but the characters—with the exception of Thomas Builds-the-Fire—weren't really distinct enough to make it interesting to see them in different stories. Eventually, I wanted to get to the end of the book so I could read something else, and I am not a fan of that reading experience.
I'm always hesitant after reading a book I don't like by an author I do like.
Current Mood: annoyed
Current Music: Hey Ocean! - Wise
Have you read The Toughest Indian in the World yet? That was the first one I read, and the initial reason I became such a big fan of Alexie. Of course, I liked Lone Ranger, too, and Toughest Indian is structured in much the same way. I couldn't tell you whether the stories are similar, since I've never read them one after another.
Also, One Stick Song is one of only a very scant handful of poetry collections that I've read and couldn't put down.
I haven't read Toughest Indian, and I am less inclined to now! I thought he was supposed to be good at short stories, but what the hell. I like the concept of interconnected short stories, though. Maybe he's better at books where he's forced to, like, have a story that will sustain more than a few pages.
And I generally don't read poetry collections, but that seems to be where his real talent lies, so I may flip through it sometime. Right now, I'm sort of turned off Alexie until the Absolutely True Diary sequel comes out. That better be awesome, Sherman!
Now I'm feeling pressure to go reread both of them so as to be able to argue to you that the one you haven't read is different and better. (;
If you do, I will listen to your argument! But if you liked them both, I'm not sure it would work. Because you must have responded better to his style than I did. BUT if you can look at what makes the stories I did like different from the rest and convince me that the stories in Toughest Indian
are more like that...that would be something.
Part of me almost felt like this
. I didn't get it because it wasn't for
Heh. I always inexplicably loved that strip. For a couple days afterwards I would mutter to myself "It's not for you." and then crack up.
It's one of my very favorites. I love Gabe's bulging eye.
And the psycho head tilt. I always envinsioned it like "It's not-" ::neck spasm and eye bulge:: "-FOR you!" with a crazy voice for the last two words.
(Note to self: don't use pointy brackets in LJ.)
I know who Sherman Alexie is because this is the second post about him on my flist today, which I find amusing. Another friend was ranting about what an idiot he is for thinking Kindles are elitist and wanting to hit people who use them
. Earth to Sherman: all technology is expensive when it first comes out, and then the price drops. I don't think the peasants had big libraries back in the day, so paper books were elitist once upon a time, too.
Ha, that is amusing. Oh, Sherman.
I still disagree with him, but I'm an ebook author, so. Heh. I just don't think the elitism argument holds water. No one is taking away the paper books, and over time, ebooks and supporting technology will be available to all. It's the way these things tend to work.
Yeah, I seem to remember not loving all of it, but really loving the ones I did love (if that makes any sense), like "Jesus Christ's Half-Brother." Which is one of those ones that just kind of ends, I guess, but I didn't mind so much.
Here, read the end of this interview
. Maybe he'll get a couple of points back.
Oh, heh. Someone already mentioned up the Kindle debacle. That's what I get for getting distracted from my comment for a couple of hours and not hitting refresh. He explains himself a bit in the one I linked, anyway.
"Jesus Christ's Half-Brother." Which is one of those ones that just kind of ends, I guess, but I didn't mind so much.
Oh God, I kind of hated that one. It had potential, but it was so cloying and gimmicky with its structure that it just annoyed me. "Here's a Faulknerian run-on sentence followed by a punchy one-liner. NEXT!"
I'm not sure how much I liked the ones I did like, really. I don't think I loved any of them (although "The Approximate Size of My Favorite Tumor" was probably my favorite).
Here, read the end of this interview. Maybe he'll get a couple of points back.
I like books too!
Fair enough. We are not always the same person! I think I forgive him for self-indulgence sometimes because it's pretty when he does it. (That being said, I tried to write a paper on that story once and found that there was absolutely nothing I could say about it.)
It could be so pretty! I think at some point, I just gave up, and I couldn't see the pretty because the stories themselves were doing nothing for me. I don't know, I guess I felt like he wasn't earning his beauty.
Nope, but I'm glad that's one of the stories I didn't hate, so I'm still interested in seeing it.
It's a great little movie. Used to be one of my favorites before I wore it out by watching it too much.
You just reminded me why I didn't like that book.