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The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven 1st Edition

4.3 out of 5 stars 292 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0871135483
ISBN-10: 0871135485
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Known primarily as a poet, Alexie ( Old Shirts and New Skins ), a Spokane/Coeur d'Alene Indian, here offers 22 extremely fine short stories, all set on or around the Spokane reservation in Washington state. Characters flow from one tale to the next; many involve Victor, who grows from a small child watching relatives fight during a New Year's Eve party ("Every Little Hurricane") to a dissolute man sitting on his broken-down porch with a friend, watching life pass him by ("The Only Traffic Signal on the Reservation Doesn't Flash Red Anymore"). The author depicts with fierce determination all the elements of modern Native American life, from basketball and alcoholism to powwows and the unexplained deaths of insignificant people. Humor and tragedy exist side by side, and stories often jump back and forth in time and space, recounting two narratives that ultimately prove to be skeins of the same tale. Alexie writes with simplicity and forthrightness, allowing the power in his stories to creep up slowly on the reader. He captures the reservation's strong sense of community and attitude of hope tinged with realism as its inhabitants determine to persevere despite the odds. In "Imagining the Reservation" (a title that evokes John Lennon's song "Imagine") he writes, "Survival = Anger Imagination. Imagination is the only weapon on the reservation"--a weapon this author wields with potent authority. First serial to Esquire.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

This work chronicles modern life on the Spokane Indian Reservation. Victor, through whose eyes we view the community, is strongly aware of Native American traditions but wonders whether his ancestors view today's Indians--mired in alcohol, violence, and an almost palpable sense of despair--with sympathy or disgust. In spite of the bleakness of reservation life, the text brims with humor and passion as it juxtaposes ancient customs with such contemporary artifacts as electric guitars and diet Pepsi. The author of two previous poetry collections, Alexie writes with grit and lyricism that perfectly capture the absurdity of a proud, dignified people living in the squalor, struggling to survive in a society they disdain. Highly recommended for all fiction collections. Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 5/15/93.
- Dan Bogey, Clearfield Cty. P.L. Federation, Curwensville, Pa.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 223 pages
  • Publisher: Atlantic Monthly Press; 1st edition (September 1993)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0871135485
  • ISBN-13: 978-0871135483
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 6.5 x 9.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (292 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #386,868 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
I should preface this book with a personal explanation. The best way to approach Sherman Alexie is to look into your own personal history regarding American Indians. For me, I grew up with the vague notion that Indians didn't exist anymore. I think a lot of kids that don't live near large Native American populations suffer from this perception. I mean, where in popular culture do you ever come across a modern day Indian? There was that movie "Smoke Signals" (based on one of the stories in this book) and possibly the television show "Northern Exposure" but that is it, ladies and gentlemen. In my own life, realization hit when I started Junior High and read "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" for the very first time. If you've read the book then you know that it dwells on the character "Chief" and his past. I read about him and found out that I knew diddly over squat about Native Americans. They show "Dances With Wolves" in high school homeroom and through that you're supposed to infer contemporary Indian culture? That's like watching "Gone With the Wind" and wondering where all the happy slaves are today. It doesn't make sense. This is why I'm nominating, "The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight In Heaven" as the book that should be required in every Junior High and High School in the country immediately. We've all read our "Catcher In the Rye" and "Scarlet Letter". Now let's read something real.

The book is a collection of short stories, all containing repeating characters and events. There is no single plot to the story and while the character of Victor is probably the closest thing the book has to a protagonist, he hardly hogs the spotlight for very long. In this book we witness a single Spokane Reservation. We watch personal triumphs and repeated failures and mistakes.
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Format: School & Library Binding
This is my personal measure of Sherman Alexie, the gifted young Spokane/Coeur d'Alene Indian writer: He caught my attention in a recently rebroadcast "60 Minutes" feature story. What appealed to me was his sardonic wit--edgy, thoughtful, ironic, challenging, and, yes, I thought, a bit sad. I told myself, Let's see if he can really write, let's see what he's got to say. So I pick up one of his books of prose; within a week, I had read three.
This outstanding collection of interrelated stories was the first. Very, very impressive! I loved his writing, his crisp, bone simple and straight style. I felt for his finely etched characters, a handful of them--especially one named Victor, presumably the author's stand-in--recurring throughout. And these are all stories with bite.
"Maybe hunger informs our lives," says the narrating voice of "Family Portrait." Roughly the first half of this book exposes us to what it means to be "Native American" today: The spoils of defeat--the tight-lipped, self-destructive despair of a once proud, historic people reduced to segregated conditions. Isolated from the white world, isolated from their own traditions. Subject to poor housing, education and food, chronic unemployment, rampant alcoholism, diabetes, blood fights and bloody ends.
Alexie's sharp depictions of conflicted identity, uncertainty in the everyday and lifelong struggles for survival on the Spokane Indian reservation, the contradictory capacities for tenderness and tragedy, beauty and brutality, breaks down our detachment, jars us into realizing both the unique and common human attributes of his people. What he induces is simply called "empathy.
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Format: Paperback
I initially picked this book up for two reasons--I liked Alexie's novel, Indian Killer, and more importantly because I live in Spokane, WA and have traveled extensively through the Reservations and towns that are described in the stories. The descriptions and the characters are very realistic, the names and places are not very fictionalized, and it makes me feel right at home. Fortunately for those readers not privleged to live in the Inland Northwest, the stories also teach a lot about Indian culture, the modern Native American and their heritage. It is a disturbing picture at times with too much alcaholism, violence, and racism, but underneath it all there is a great deal of love which makes the stories comforting and redeeming. Alexie has a lyrical voice, and when combined with his authenticsity, beautiful, rich stories are produced. Aside from those academic traits, he is also very funny, honest, and affectionate throughout, and those qualities are what I will remember about this book far more than the descriptions of familiar hotels on Third Avenue and the basketball games played between Springdale and Wellpinit. It is a great, quick read, and a wonderful way to pass an afternoon.
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By A Customer on July 12, 2000
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is an awesome collection, but when you read it, keep in mind that the stories are not supposed to be connected. Each wonderful story stands on its own and portrays reservation life from the perspective of different characters, although some characters appear peripherally in more than one story. Some may say that Alexie is angry and that this book describes a life of alcoholic depressiveness on the Rez; in reality he is just describing much of what is. There is love and caring and pride and intelligence right next to the stuff one might consider ugly. Reading this book will alternately make you sad and happy--that's what Life is anyway.
And go rent the movie, Smoke Signals; Alexie wrote the screenplay for it based on some of the scenes from this book, but don't expect the book to be like the movie or vice versa. Alexie is a talented young writer who deserves the attention he is getting.
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