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THE HEIRS OF COLUMBUS by Gerald Vizenor

THE HEIRS OF COLUMBUS

By Gerald Vizenor

Pub Date: Aug. 23rd, 1991
ISBN: 0-8195-5241-0

 A comic mythology of Columbus that--though it sags in places with repetition and academic padding--offers enough tall-tale fun to make for inventive entertainment. According to this fractured history from Vizenor (Griever: An American Monkey King in China, 1987; the nonfiction Interior Landscapes, 1990), Christopher Columbus is actually descended from Mayans (``the first to imagine the universe and to write about the stories in their blood'') who sailed from the New to the Old World. An account of this alternative history merges with a present-day story about several Indians and mixed-bloods, notably Stone Columbus, a trickster healer. Born on the reservation, he made a fortune, more than a million a season, when he became captain of the Santa Maria Casino, a bingo barge in the boundary waters (between the US and Canada). Columbus's genetic heirs, including Stone, meet annually at the Mississippi River's headwaters to remember stories (``the best stories about their strain and estate'') and plan for a new tribal nation. Interweaving fact and fantasy, shamanistic visions and the ``hand talkers'' (who show their stories ``in the summer, in silence, and leave their handprints around the world''), Vizenor manages to narrate a species of mystery story, dealing with an international search for the remains of Columbus and an attempt to isolate ``the genetic code of tribal survivance and radiance.'' Don't ask. Though its energy occasionally flags or turns pedantic, the book is a hoot, as much a compendium of magical realism as a novel, and successful on its own terms: ``Stories have natural rights to be heard and liberated.'' Not as easy a read as the much-ballyhooed The Crown of Columbus, but more deeply satisfying.