The Genius Writes Again.
I suspect you have to have lived near or on a Reservation to truly truly appreciate the humor in these books. And there's plenty of careful, clever humor to appreciate.
The pathos and the heartfelt, though, is universal. I say The Genius because though there are bum notes as far as clunky writing every now and then, this Spokane (Washingtion State) Indian knows human nature. He is not afraid to point out "his people's" foibles and he does it with wit and description and narrative. Not offensive.
Of course, many of these traits are everyman's. Like all great writers, if you were e-mailed the text of a few untitled pages, you would know immediately who had written it.
A few of you may rember the film Smoke Signals, - big news for the one reaosn that it was produced and paid for and acted by Native Americans. I lived near Spokane when it came out. I didn't see it even though it was filmed in and arround eastern Washington.
I bought the video on a whim. It starts with a woman driving a car backwards through the reservation. Why?
"It only goes in reverse" is the only explanation given in the film.
I had lived and worked and shared veteran's and Fourth of July powwows, though I never figured out the twisted logic that allowed Native Americans - Indian is usually the preferred word, frankly, in casual conversation - to celebrate the Fourth of July.
Sherman Alexie helped me to understand why, though I stil don't have all the pieces. When a writer can create within me better understanding of something and amuse, entertain and make me choke up every now and then, too, I call him or her a Genius.
If you've seen the end of Smoke Signals you'll understand the lore and the good work that it is. He is a an American treasure.