Indian Killer by Sherman Alexie

Mike’s review

“Go to college, find a cute minority woman, preferably one with limited English, and colonize her by sleeping with her.” Maybe Ethan is really doing this? Or at least fears he is? What are my intentions? Maybe bring Charlotte home to shock family and no one actually cares. (For those of you who aren’t VV, this is a note about a novel I’ve written a million and one drafts of that isn’t as good as it should be. I know it could be good though. I’m not sure how to get it there entirely. I don’t know if I want to make this my next project. I don’t know if I want a next project. I’m have a crisis of the future here. It happens every few months when my mom offers me a good job in smalltown Wisconsin. (And I’m between writing project and don’t know what to fix/start next.) I’m walking a very precarious tightrope here, but there are reasons to walk that tightrope. I do like to be able to eat food when I am hungry though. But really, living with my mother in smalltown Wisconsin? This is the outline. I wanted to put up a whiny blog post about it, but I’m glad I got to sneak in a small bit here instead of doing more stupid complaining in full.)

It would be impossible to copy down each beautiful, perfect sentence.

“There was magic in the world. John knew that real Indians felt it every day. He had only brief glimpses of it, small miracles happening at the edges of his peripheral vision, tiny wonders exploding while his back was turned.”

Indian identity seems to mostly be telling people they don’t know what it means to be a real Indian. A forced recognition for the need/awareness of identity. I get to be a blank slate if I choose to be. I get the choice. The point here is Indians don’t get that choice, even though there seems to be no “true” Indian. I’m not as racist as that may seem, but rather lazy.

“The paragraph was a fence that held words.”

Are Glen Beck and Rush Limbaugh sincere? Do they know they’re being inflammatory? Do they do so purposefully? Don’t get me wrong, I know the feeling/urge, but I operate on a significantly smaller scale. If I were somehow propelled to a larger scale, I can only imagine I’d get far, far worse though. Truck Schultze’s purposeful lying and shit-stirring seemed dishonest to me (not like what he was doing was dishonest, but that Alexie wasn’t writing the truth).

Valerie’s response

I can’t answer all your rhetoricals here, but they are provacative. This book was gifted to me recently and I think it’s almost time to read it. I’ve read Alexie in short form and am always impressed by his command of language. This book seems full of serious themes though, and I need some happy funny trash in between the DH Lawrence I just read and this, so I will review and get back to you after I read Bossypants.

Valerie’s review

Such great writing is refreshing after the blah I have been reading/editing…

I found it gripping from the start. The protagonist, being adopted and tribeless, is an amalgam of every lovable Indian archetype, mashup of Tonto and Nick in American Gods (strong silent) Hawk from Twin Peaks and beyond… The use of chief as casual to the point of they don’t know it’s rude/derogatory slang is infuriating, the reader beings to understand the rage brewing inside the man, from high school on. The Marie character easy to latch on to, to identify with her. My first college roommate is Lakota and the college experience was frustrating to her, the white men dispensing their version of of Indian people’s literatures, the syllabi making her cringe over and over.

I loved/was touched to sadness by his chapters on his imagined life on the reservation, such details: Scrabble with no e’s, haha, his mum’s unconditional luv, how she was never sorry for not giving him up… heartrending!

The paragraph about the knife is so pretty, poetic, wellwritten… I understand that Alexie is well-known for his poetry.

Despite his unique method for telling the tale, taking on the points of view of many varied characters, I felt he relied on some stereotypes and rote phrases to make a quick point in fastpaced writing/storytelling. It’s difficult to stretch one’s imagination into every race and gender, and he manages to pull off many voices in one story. One other critique is that it went on in circles a little bit, they could have trimmed a few redundant scenes like with the parents, for example, and in the bar.

The portrayal of Seattle’s homeless American Indian population is well done. Many different characters come through with recognizable personalities that are eerily realistic. I can see him going down under the viaduct to hang with them doing his research. Seattle as a setting was well hashed.

The murder scenes were always chilling. The Killer seemed mystical & freaky. I wept with relief when the small boy was returned home. The porn shop kill was well wrought and haunting.

I wish the radio host would have bit it, for spreading false information especially, but I think him being haunted by his own dirty conscience was possibly punishment enough. Though the Killer didn’t shut anybody up – by anybody I mean whites, speaking for native Americans…

The ending made me want to believe, like Marie believed, that John wasn’t the Killer. Nice twist and opening for the reader to make up one’s own mind. Though I kind of felt like he shamed me as a reader to have presumed John was the Indian Killer. He could have just been schizo/emotionally damaged and off his meds.

Found a link to http://www.bookcrossing.com/ with a number in the back that tracks who had read this book. Kind of like we used to see in library cards, but now it’s global and available on the Web. Two others had read my copy who had logged it.

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