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War Dances Hardcover – October 6, 2009
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From Publishers Weekly
From National Book Award–winner Alexie comes a new collection of stories, poems, question and answer sequences, and hybrids of all three and beyond. In a penetrating voice that mixes humor with anger, Alexie pointedly asks, If it is true that children pay for the sins of their fathers, then is it also true that fathers pay for the sins of their children? Many of the stories revolve around the complexities of fatherhood; in the title story, the Native American narrator recalls his alcoholic father's death as he confronts his own mortality, and The Ballad of Paul Nonetheless is the tale of an eccentric vintage clothing salesman whose sexual attraction to his wife fades following the birth of their children. The collection also contains stirring defenses of artistic integrity; Fearful Symmetry is an incisive account of working as a young screenwriter for a Hollywood studio, and the poem Ode to Mix Tapes endorses hard work as the key ingredient behind any creation. Alexie unfurls highly expressive language, and while at times his jokes bomb and the characters' anger can feel forced, overall this is a spiritedly provocative array of tragic comedies. (Oct.)
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Alexie has a wry, subversive sensibility. . . . The structure [in War Dances] is sophisticated yet playful, a subtle way to bring lightness to heavy topics such as senility, bigotry, cancer, and loneliness. . . . A mix tape of a book, with many voices, pieces of different length, shifting rhythms, an evolving story.”Carolyn Kellogg, Los Angeles Times
Sherman Alexie mixes up comedy and tragedy, shoots it through with tenderness, then delivers with a provocateur’s don’t-give-a-damn flourish. He’s unique, and his new book, War Dances, is another case in point.”Mary Ann Gwinn, Seattle Times
Few other contemporary writers seem willing to deal with issues of race, class, and sexuality as explicitly as Alexie . . . [War Dances” is] a virtuoso performance of wit and pathos, a cultural and familial critique and a son’s quiet, worthless scream against the night as his father expires . . . [that] reminds me of the early 20th Century master of the short form Akutagawa Riyunosuke. . . . Yet again Sherman Alexie has given us a hell of a ride.”Anthony Swofford, Barnes & Noble.com
Alexie’s works are piercing yet rueful. He writes odes to anguished pay-phone calls, to boys who would drive through blizzards to see a girl, to couples who need to sit together on airplane flights even though the computer thinks otherwise. . . . [A] marvelous collection.”Connie Ogle, Miami Herald
Sherman Alexie is a rare creature in contemporary literature, a writer who can make you laugh as easily as he can make you cry. He’s also frighteningly versatile, as a poet, screenwriter, short story author, and novelist.”Ben Fulton, The Salt Lake Tribune
Remarkable . . . Wonderful . . . [Alexie’s] work reveals both the light and dark within native American life. A paradox in his writing is that you can be in the middle of delighted laughter when he will hit you with a sentence so true to the core of a character’s pain that you suck your breath or are startled to realize you are crying.”Gale Zoe Garnett, The Globe and Mail
War Dances is maybe the most personal book Alexie has ever published, and it’s certainly one of his most readable. The closest thing to a historical precedent for this book is Palm Sunday, Kurt Vonnegut’s wildly entertaining self-described autobiographical collage’ of anecdotes, fiction, reminiscences, and other work. . . . Each piece firmly builds on some part of the other, like the songs on a good mix tape. . . . The asymmetrical collection on display in War Dances works as a supremely gratifying reading experience.”Paul Constant, The Stranger
Alexie is a master storyteller whose prose is laced with metaphoric realities of life, mixed with triumph and tragedy. . . . War Dances is vintage Alexie . . . [and] should be savored. . . . Fans will not be disappointed.”Levi Rickert, The Grand Rapids Press
May be his best work yet . . . An odd grab bag of images, insights, and loose ends . . . yet each piece asks a similar set of questions: What’s the point of all this? If there is a point, what’s the point of that? And isn’t life really goddamn funny? . . . A book about searching.”Mike Dumke, Chicago Reader
Complex . . . Unpredictable . . . Thought-provoking.”Michelle Peters, Winnipeg Free Press
Beautiful . . . [Alexie] tells wryly amusing, bittersweet stories. . . . He makes you laugh, he makes you cry. Perfect reasons to read him.”Frank Zoretich, Albuquerque Journal
Penetrating . . . Alexie unfurls highly expressive language . . . [in] this spiritedly provocative array of tragic comedies.”Publishers Weekly
Encounter [Alexie’s work] once and you’ll never forget it.”Library Journal
Alexie is at his best in this collection of hilarious and touching stories.”Geeta Sharma-Jensen, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
[With War Dances], Sherman Alexie enhances his stature as a multitalented writer and an astute observer of life among Native Americans in the Pacific Northwest. . . . [An] edgy and frequently surprising collection.”Harvey Freedenberg, Bookpage
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I am not a person who usually likes poetry, but his poems are always compelling.