By Sherman Alexie
(Grove Press, Hardcover, 9780802119193, 256pp.)
Publication Date: October 2009
Other Editions of This Title: Paperback
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Fresh off his National Book Award win, Alexie delivers a heartbreaking, hilarious collection of stories that explores the precarious balance between self-preservation and external responsibility in art, family, and the world at large. With unparalleled insight into the minds of artists, laborers, fathers, husbands, and sons, Alexie populates his stories with ordinary men on the brink of exceptional change. In a bicoastal journey through the consequences of both simple and monumental life choices, Alexie introduces us to personal worlds as they transform beyond return. In the title story, a famous writer must decide how to care for his distant father who is slowly dying a natural Indian death” from alcohol and diabetes, just as he learns that he himself may have a brain tumor. Alexie dissects a vintage-clothing store owner’s failing marriage and his courtship of a married photographer in various airports across the country; what happens when a politician’s son commits a hate crime; and how a young boy discovers his self-worth while writing obituaries for his local newspaper. Brazen and wise, War Dances takes us to the heart of what it means to be human. This provocative new work is Alexie at the height of his powers.
"Why would someone expect a writer of a book to be boring?" Alexie says. "I just try to be as interesting as my books are. And I would expect every writer to want that. And some don't. I have friends who hate performing."
Sherman Alexie is not a finicky writer. He is often messy and in-your-face in a way that can make you laugh (or shudder) when you least expect to. . . . War Dances is Alexie’s fiercely freewheeling collection of stories and poems about the tragicomedies of ordinary lives.”O, the Oprah Magazine
Alexie has a wry, subversive sensibility. . . . The structure [in War Dances] is sophisticated yet playful, a subtle way to bring lightness to heavy topics such as senility, bigotry, cancer, and loneliness. . . . A mix tape of a book, with many voices, pieces of different length, shifting rhythms, an evolving story.”Carolyn Kellogg, Los Angeles Times
Sherman Alexie mixes up comedy and tragedy, shoots it through with tenderness, then delivers with a provocateur’s don’t-give-a-damn flourish. He’s unique, and his new book, War Dances, is another case in point.”Mary Ann Gwinn, Seattle Times
Few other contemporary writers seem willing to deal with issues of race, class, and sexuality as explicitly as Alexie . . . [War Dances” is] a virtuoso performance of wit and pathos, a cultural and familial critique and a son’s quiet, worthless scream against the night as his father expires . . . [that] reminds me of the early 20th Century master of the short form Akutagawa Riyunosuke. . . . Yet again Sherman Alexie has given us a hell of a ride.”Anthony Swofford, Barnes & Noble.com
Alexie’s works are piercing yet rueful. He writes odes to anguished pay-phone calls, to boys who would drive through blizzards to see a girl, to couples who need to sit together on airplane flights even though the computer thinks otherwise. . . . [A] marvelous collection.”Connie Ogle, Miami Herald
Sherman Alexie is a rare creature in contemporary literature, a writer who can make you laugh as easily as he can make you cry. He’s also frighteningly versatile, as a poet, screenwriter, short story author, and novelist.”Ben Fulton, The Salt Lake Tribune
Remarkable . . . Wonderful . . . [Alexie’s] work reveals both the light and dark within native American life. A paradox in his writing is that you can be in the middle of delighted laughter when he will hit you with a sentence so true to the core of a character’s pain that you suck your breath or are startled to realize you are crying.”Gale Zoe Garnett, The Globe and Mail
War Dances is maybe the most personal book Alexie has ever published, and it’s certainly one of his most readable. The closest thing to a historical precedent for this book is Palm Sunday, Kurt Vonnegut’s wildly entertaining self-described autobiographical collage’ of anecdotes, fiction, reminiscences, and other work. . . . Each piece firmly builds on some part of the other, like the songs on a good mix tape. . . . The asymmetrical collection on display in War Dances works as a supremely gratifying reading experience.”Paul Constant, The Stranger
Alexie is a master storyteller whose prose is laced with metaphoric realities of life, mixed with triumph and tragedy. . . . War Dances is vintage Alexie . . . [and] should be savored. . . . Fans will not be disappointed.”Levi Rickert, The Grand Rapids Press
May be his best work yet . . . An odd grab bag of images, insights, and loose ends . . . yet each piece asks a similar set of questions: What’s the point of all this? If there is a point, what’s the point of that? And isn’t life really goddamn funny? . . . A book about searching.”Mike Dumke, Chicago Reader
Complex . . . Unpredictable . . . Thought-provoking.”Michelle Peters, Winnipeg Free Press
Beautiful . . . [Alexie] tells wryly amusing, bittersweet stories. . . . He makes you laugh, he makes you cry. Perfect reasons to read him.”Frank Zoretich, Albuquerque Journal
Penetrating . . . Alexie unfurls highly expressive language . . . [in] this spiritedly provocative array of tragic comedies.”Publishers Weekly
Encounter [Alexie’s work] once and you’ll never forget it.”Library Journal
Alexie is at his best in this collection of hilarious and touching stories.”Geeta Sharma-Jensen, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
[With War Dances], Sherman Alexie enhances his stature as a multitalented writer and an astute observer of life among Native Americans in the Pacific Northwest. . . . [An] edgy and frequently surprising collection.”Harvey Freedenberg, Bookpage