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Reviews 181 knowthat “conquesthadbeenthewayoftheworld,notsimplyoftheWest”andthatthe weaker has always lost “to some interloper who came with greater strength, a more unyieldinghunger,”sotheydiginanddetermine tobethe strongest inorderto seetheir dreams become reality. The Pumpkin Rollers isnot simplyanother storybemoaningthe loss ofthepastbut one that understands that the same pioneer spirit that drove the settlers still drives man today, that it is not the open trail or the wide, starry sky that sets on fire a man’s spirit but the possibility of dreaming a dream and making it a reality. Kelton has written yet another true Western about Texas, about history, and aboutpeople he knows from long studyandpersonal acquaintance. The manwhowontheWesternHeritageAwardforthe best novel in 1987has done it again. R. L. STRENG International Christian School San Jose, Costa Rica Indian Killer. ByShermanAlexie. (NewYork:AtlanticMonthlyPress, 1996. 432pages, $22.00.) DidShermanAlexie writethisnovel?Readers familiarwithhisprevious workmay well wonder. Where are theoutbursts ofwildly imaginative writing, the humor, andthe wholly original way ofdealing withthe ironies ofcontemporaryreservation life? Set in Seattle, Indian Killer recalls Almanac of the Dead, the novel in which Leslie Marmon SilkomovedawayfromLagunaPueblotowriteabouttheconditionsthatengenderclass conflictinthecityofTucson. Butwhereas Silkoviewedthecityas agatheringplacefor sordid and corrupt opportunists who degrade the land and the human spirit, Alexie is concernedless with deploringvice andeconomic injusticethanwithexploring the poli­ tics ofpersonal identity within anurban setting. TherearethoselikethetribelessJohnSmith, adoptedatbirthbywhiteparents, who driftnumblythroughlifewithoutknowingwhotheyare.EquallyconfusedaretheIndian “wannabe’s,” like Dr. Mather, a white professor who claims to understand the realities of Indian life, yet teaches his course in NativeAmerican literature without including a singlebookbyanativewriteronhis syllabus. Mather’snemesis, MariePolatkin, acam­ pus activist for native causes andan advocate for thehomeless, has always felt alienat­ ed fromher tribe on thereservationbecause ofher desire for formal education, yet she upholdsthetribal ideal ofcommitmenttoothers. Shealoneinthenovel seems secure in who sheis. Alexie isasunkindto liberals like Mather ashe istobigots likeTruck Schultz, the arrogant radio host, who broadcasts his rants across the city. A killer is terrorizing Seattle, ritualistically scalping white people, and Schultz seems intent upon fueling the flames ofracial anxietythatthekillingshaveignited. Theantithesis ofMarie, Schultz is allego, andagoodexample, amongseveralinthenovel, ofapersonwhose“ideas”upon race thinly disguise anetwork ofpersonal insecurities andirrational fears. As befits a novel that is, at least on the surface, amurder mystery, Indian Killer is moretightlyplotted thanAlexie’searlierfiction. True,nosinglecharacterisdrawnwith much depth—each represents a certain idea about, or a different version of, identity—but Alexie constructs enough types to keep things interesting. Though fans 182 Western American Literature might long for something a bit more like Reservation Blues or The Lone Ranger and TontoFistfight inHeaven, why, intheend, criticize someoneforwantingtostretchhim­ selfartistically, especially whentheresults areas highlyreadable asthis novel is? PAULHADELLA Southern OregonState College The Summer ofBlack Widows. By Sherman Alexie. (Brooklyn: Hanging Loose Press, 1996. 139pages, $13.50.) At present, at least two major dangers loom for non-Indian reviewers of Native Americanliterature: misunderstandingitbecauseofthereviewer’soutsidemess orover­ valuing it for politically safe reasons. Yet even with these potential pratfalls in view, Native American written literature, for the most part a creature only of the past thirty years, forms one of the richest literatures of twentieth-century America. Much of its power no doubt is paradoxically a positive outgrowth of the tragic reality comprising Native American history over the last five centuries. Along with Momaday, Erdrich, Welch, Silko, Owens, Hogan, Vizenor, and the like, the young, prolific Spokane/Coeur d’Alene ShermanAlexie—whose previous short stories, poems, and novels have made him one of the most significant Native American literary voices—has continued his quest to turn that painful history into art. This volume of poetry and his novel Indian Killer arecurrentlyjoint subjects ofa double booktour. As suggested by the spider in the book’s title, themes frequently visited byNative American writers run through these poems. These themes range from death, survival, and the search for identity to reservation life (including much ado about basketball), leaving for thecity (oftenbut not always to return), Wovokaand the Ghost Dance, and so on.Alexie’suse ofIndian humor is one ofthebook’smost noticeable strengths, and the sarcastic “How to Write the Great American Indian Novel” is probably the most enjoyable if not the best of the poems here focusing on what we might call “at-large Indianconcerns.”Yetthisbook,likeAlexie’sotherwork,revealsmorethanjusttheinter­ connectedness ofthevarious Indiantribes intheUnitedStates; italsoincludeselements unique to tribes ofthe Pacific Northwest, such as the centrality of salmon to their cul­ ture(“ThePlaceWhereGhostsofSalmonJump...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1948-7142
Print ISSN
0043-3462
Pages
pp. 181-182
Launched on MUSE
2017-10-04
Open Access
No
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