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THE LONE RANGER AND TONTO FISTFIGHT IN HEAVEN by Sherman Alexie

THE LONE RANGER AND TONTO FISTFIGHT IN HEAVEN

By Sherman Alexie

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1993
ISBN: 0-87113-548-5
Publisher: Atlantic Monthly

 With wrenching pain and wry humor, the talented Alexie, a Spokane/Coeur d'Alene Indian--and previously a small-press author (The Business of Fancydancing, a collection of poetry and prose-- not reviewed--etc.)--presents contemporary life on the Spokane Indian Reservation through 22 linked stories. Here, people treat each other (and life) with amused tolerance--although anger can easily erupt in this environment of endemic alcoholism and despair. The history of defeat is ever- present; every attempt to hold onto cultural tradition aches with poignancy: Thomas-Builds-the-Fire is the storyteller everyone mocks and no one listens to; Aunt Nezzy, who sews a traditional full- length beaded dress that turns out to be too heavy to wear, believes that the woman ``who can carry the weight of this dress on her back...will save us all.'' Meanwhile, young men dream of escape--going to college, being a basketball star--but failure seems preordained. These tales, though sad and at times plain- spokenly didactic, are often lyrically beautiful and almost always very funny. Chapters focus on and are narrated by several different characters, but voices and perspectives often become somewhat indistinguishable--confusing until you stop worrying about who is speaking and choose to listen to the voice of the book itself and enter into its particular sensibility. Irony, grim humor, and forgiveness help characters transcend pain, anger and loss while the same qualities make it possible to read Alexie's fiction without succumbing to hopelessness. Forgiveness seems to be the last moral/ethical value left standing: the ability both to judge and to love gives the book its searing yet affectionate honesty. (First printing of 25,000; First serial rights to Esquire and Story)