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Blasphemy: New and Selected Stories Hardcover – October 2, 2012
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"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."Boston Globe
"Tough, warmhearted, rowdy, and moving . . . Alexie's achievement here is his depiction of the tangled complexities of racethat great open secret of American lifein an undidactic and utterly natural way."The Washington Post
"A timely reminder of Alexie's genius."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.' . . . Blasphemy is blasphemous only in disrespecting the boundaries that many would place on those who mine otherness."Washington Independent Review of Books
"[Alexie] has been celebrated for his acerbic, funny, politically charged stories. . . . Tenderness along with passiongovernable or otherwiseare 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."San Francisco Chronicle
"[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)
"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."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."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."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."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."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."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."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."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)
About the Author
Top Customer Reviews
Many of the stories in this volume, as always with Alexie, are vignettes, bringing us to a place or time or person and just introducing us. Others are short stories of people with needs that are met or not, filled with successes, failures, and not so easily labeled endings. As always, Alexie mostly writes from the view of Spokane Indians and their interactions on the rez and off the rez, with fellow tribe members and members of other tribes (not always Indian).
Overall, I really enjoyed this book. I have read pretty much everything that Alexie has written, so it was reading about old friends and meeting new ones. In the stories, I hear Alexie's voice, telling of his experiences, of his friends' and family's experiences, and of the experiences of all of us.
Alexie gets people, and not just Indian people. Oh, he does a wonderful job of showing what it's like to be Indian, from the importance of tradition and storytelling to the confliction over assimilation. He doesn't shy away from writing about the really painful stuff, like the oppressive hopelessness many Indians experience. This is not tear-jerking sentimentality but a frank, realistic portrayal of what life is like. There's no preaching here. Though Alexie gives realistic portrayals of Indians, what really surprised me was his portrayal of White people. Forgive me if I'm focusing on the wrong thing, but, as a White person, I could really relate to these characters. When it comes to books about multi-cultural interaction, I'm used to seeing White characters being presented as oblivious to racial matters, sometimes well-intentioned but almost always needing to learn some kind of moral. These characters are not like that. These characters suffer from racial dissatisfaction and guilt, and feelings of racelessness and cultural void. They sometimes do racist things, but if you're paying attention, you'll gain an understanding of why they do these things. Sometimes they want to be heroes and save the Indians to assuage their own racial guilt. Sometimes they use Indians (and others) to try to bring cultural meaning into their own lives. And sometimes, the Indians in these stories do these things, too. Everyone's trying to overcome the problems and divisions caused by race, and just by being human. There aren't really good guys and bad guys here, just people struggling with the world they live in and their own identities.
I related to and cared about these characters. The stories were interesting because I really wanted to find out what happened to them (not to mention the strong plotting and engaging writing style). There was only one that started to drag a bit for me, quite impressive for a volume this size.
IN SHORT: Sherman Alexie is an amazing author who writes frankly about the human condition. He doesn't make things seem brighter than they are or sentimentalize about tragedy. His characters are strong no matter their race; they have realistic motivations and behaviors. I loved them most when they used humor in the face of their pain. The stories here are interesting because you want to know what happens to them, plus the writing and the plotting are interesting and engaging. Sherman Alexie is a must-read author for those wanting to explore the human condition.
Those are all my qualms about Alexie's writing. By the same token, he is also an amazing writer, who can drown the reader in the emotion of the story, and of the narrator, so that you can almost feel the suffering, or the isolation, or the existential crises of the stories. You will learn a good deal about Native American culture and the contemporary "Indian Problem" — no longer referring to the white euphemism for the need to eradicate or reeducate the Indians but the struggle of the widespread poverty and squalor that Native Americans face on and off reservations today. Alexie explores issues of identity and culture unabashedly and beautifully, and this selection of stories is very representative of his best writing. He may be controversial, but not many others are stepping up to write on these matters as viscerally as him.