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HOTLINE HEALERS by Gerald Vizenor

HOTLINE HEALERS

By Gerald Vizenor

Pub Date: May 12th, 1997
ISBN: 0-8195-5304-2

 In his unique satiric style, at once lyrical and salted with allusion and self-reference, Vizenor (Dead Voices, 1992, etc.) savages academics and lampoons Anglo-Americans generally for their interference with and misperception of Native American reality. Almost Browne, the hero of this endlessly reconfigured comedy, is a man about whom little is certain, except that he was born on the side of the road in the back of a station wagon, almost on the White Earth Reservation in Minnesota. Fully invested in the trickster tradition as an adult, he wastes no opportunity to confuse those in search of answers, telling ``tricky'' tales to relatives and anthropologists alike, and flaunting a distinctly native presence in front of those who prefer the assimilationist, ``melting pot'' notion in culture theory and everyday life. Invited as commencement speaker to the University of California, his talk, which disparages academia, alienates the faculty and students but leaves the joint jumping and alive with questions. Similarly, in a memorable cross-dressing performance, Almost turns on the heat in a native beauty pageant, winning the contest by lip-synching and sashaying his way through Peggy Lee's ``Fever''--an intentionally ironic choice given the role of disease in the history of native- white relations. Other members of Almost's family figure plausibly in the tale as well, from his cousin, the narrator, to his great- uncle, Gesture, who runs a free train around the reservation and does the tribe's dental work gratis. The final segment, though, featuring a band of medieval monks who set up a monastery near the tribe, has seemingly little to do with what has come before. Some loose ends and a fondness for narrative loops are drawbacks, but the novel also draws real strength from its style and wit; those acclimated to Vizenor's eclecticism will find much here to enjoy.