October 18, 2009 in Features

Alexie displays unique style

Mary Ann Gwinn Seattle Times

‘War Dances’

By Sherman Alexie; Grove Press (209 pages, $23)

Sherman Alexie mixes up comedy and tragedy, shoots it through with tenderness, then delivers with a provocateur’s don’t-give-a-damn flourish.

“War Dances” is the former Spokane author’s first book-length work that includes fiction since he won the 2007 National Book Award for his young adult novel “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian.”

It collects 23 stories and poems. Topics include love and betrayal, as well as Indian stereotypes, race relations and the corrupting nature of success.

In “After Building the Lego Star Wars Ultimate Death Star,” Alexie, now a parent, looks at his relationship with his children through the lens of his own childhood on the Spokane Indian reservation.

This bittersweet poem precedes the title story, the strongest in the collection (and the only one to have been published previously, in the New Yorker).

“The Senator’s Son” is a less successful story, told in the voice of the son of a United States senator from Seattle.

Alexie affectingly portrays the son’s confusion and anger as he grapples with the news that his best friend is gay.

But the morally upright senator’s about-face into lying and deception feels melodramatic and forced.

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