BLASPHEMY by Sherman Alexie
Best of 2012
Kirkus Star

BLASPHEMY

New and Selected Stories

KIRKUS REVIEW

Sterling collection of short stories by Alexie (Ten Little Indians, 2003, etc.), a master of the form.

The reader can take his or her pick of points where the blasphemy of Alexie’s title occurs in this multifaceted assemblage, for there are several solid candidates. One falls about two-thirds of the way in, when a hard-boiled newspaper editor chews out a young Indian writer who might be Alexie’s semblable. By that young man’s count, the editor had used the word “Jesus” thrice in 15 seconds: “I wasn’t a Christian and didn’t know much about the definition of blasphemy,” Alexie writes, “but it seemed like he’d committed some kind of sin.” In Alexie’s stories, someone is always committing some kind of sin, and often not particularly wittingly. One character, a bad drinker in need of help to bail out some prized pawned regalia, makes about as many errors as it’s possible to make while still remaining a fundamentally decent person; another laments that once you start looking at your loved one as though he or she is a criminal, then the love is out the door. “It’s logical,” notes Alexie, matter-of-factly. Most of Alexie’s characters in these stories—half selected and half new—are Indians, and then most of them Spokanes and other Indians of the Northwest; but within that broad categorization are endless variations and endless possibilities for misinterpretation, as when a Spokane encounters three mysterious Aleuts who sing him all the songs they’re allowed to: “All the others are just for our people,” which is to say, other Aleuts. Small wonder that when they vanish, no one knows where, why, or how. But ethnicity is not as central in some of Alexie’s stories as in others; in one of the most affecting, the misunderstandings and attendant tragedies occur between humans and donkeys. The darkness of that tale is profound, even if it allows Alexie the opportunity to bring in his beloved basketball. Longtime readers will find the collection full of familiar themes and characters, but the newer pieces are full of surprises.     

Whether recent or from his earliest period, 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.”

Pub Date: Oct. 2nd, 2012
ISBN: 978-0-8021-2039-7
Page count: 480pp
Publisher: Grove
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1st, 2012




BEST FICTION OF 2012: THE TOP 25:

Fiction HOPE: A TRAGEDY by Shalom Auslander
by Shalom Auslander
Fiction BLASPHEMY by Sherman Alexie
by Sherman Alexie
Fiction KINGDOM COME by J.G. Ballard
by J.G. Ballard
Fiction LAZARUS IS DEAD by Richard Beard
by Richard Beard

MORE BY SHERMAN ALEXIE

FictionWAR DANCES by Sherman Alexie
by Sherman Alexie
FictionTEN LITTLE INDIANS by Sherman Alexie
by Sherman Alexie
AdultONE STICK SONG by Sherman Alexie
by Sherman Alexie

SIMILAR BOOKS SUGGESTED BY OUR CRITICS:

FictionBROWN DOG by Jim Harrison
by Jim Harrison
FictionBEFORE YOU SUFFOCATE YOUR OWN FOOL SELF by Danielle Evans
by Danielle Evans
NonfictionTHE RED AND THE WHITE by Andrew R. Graybill
by Andrew R. Graybill