Summary and book reviews of Blasphemy by Sherman Alexie

Blasphemy

New and Selected Stories

By Sherman Alexie

Blasphemy
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  • Hardcover: Oct 2012,
    480 pages.
    Paperback: Oct 2013,
    480 pages.

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Book Reviewed by:
Elizabeth Whitmore Funk

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Book Summary

Sherman Alexie's stature as a writer of stories, poems, and novels has soared over the course of his twenty-book, twenty-year career. His wide-ranging, acclaimed stories from the last two decades, from The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven to his most recent PEN/Faulkner award?winning War Dances, have established him as a star in modern literature.

A bold and irreverent observer of life among Native Americans in the Pacific Northwest, the daring, versatile, funny, and outrageous Alexie showcases all his talents in his newest collection, Blasphemy, where he unites fifteen beloved classics with fifteen new stories in one sweeping anthology for devoted fans and first-time readers.

Included here are some of his most esteemed tales, including "What You Pawn I Will Redeem", "This is What it Means to Say Phoenix, Arizona", The Toughest Indian in the World", and "War Dances." Alexie's new stories are fresh and quintessential - about donkey basketball leagues, lethal wind turbines, the reservation, marriage, and all species of contemporary American warriors.

An indispensable collection of new and classic stories, Blasphemy reminds us, on every thrilling page, why Sherman Alexie is one of our greatest contemporary writers and a true master of the short story.

Cry Cry Cry

Forget crack, my cousin said, meth is the new war dancer.

World champion, he said.

Grand Entry, he said.

Five bucks, he said, give me five bucks and I'll give you enough meth to put you on a Vision Quest.

For a half-assed Indian, he sure talked full-on spiritual. He was a born-again Indian. At the age of twenty-five, he war danced for the first time. Around the same day he started dealing drugs.

I'm traditional, he said.

Rule is: whenever an Indian says he's traditional, you know that Indian is full of shit.

But, not long after my cousin started dancing, the powwow committee chose him as Head Man Dancer. Meaning: he was charming and popular. Powwow is like high school, except with more feathers and beads.

He took drugs, too, so he was doomed. But what Indian isn't doomed? Anyway, the speed made him dance for hours. Little fucker did somersaults. I've seen maybe three somersaulting war dancers in my own life.

You war ...

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Reviews

BookBrowse

Alexie's talent for blending qualities that normally repel each other is not new, but in Blasphemy it is carefully curated so readers can experience the power of such combinations. The 31 stories in this collection would make a wonderful introduction into Alexie's work, but they also make for an absorbing way to fall in love all over again with his humorous, tragic world.   (Reviewed by Elizabeth Whitmore Funk).

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Media Reviews
Huffington Post

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.

Booklist

Starred Review. A poet and fiction writer for adults of all ages, National Book Award winner Alexie is a virtuoso of the short story....This is a must-have collection.

Kirkus Reviews

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.

Publishers Weekly

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.

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American Names and Their Native American Origins

When reading Sherman Alexie's stories it's hard to not think about the ways that Native American language has been adapted and used by white settlers and contemporary multicultural America. Many American place names originated in Native American languages, though spelling, pronunciation, and other linguistic qualities have been adjusted and modified. Scholarship on the etymology of such names is often tricky, and occasionally defaults to guesswork where evidence is scarce. Some names, though, have fairly direct origins.

Chief Seattle Alexie's hometown of Spokane, for example, is named for the Spokane tribe that Alexie's mother is a part of. In the Salish languages of the Pacific Northwest, Spokane translates to mean "children of the sun" or "sun ...

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