Review: Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven by Sherman Alexie

I am fascinated with Native American/Indian literature and cultural history. In this collection of short stories, Alexie does a wonderful job of expressing the pain of the Native past, and the hopelessness of its future, in an unique way. I did find it difficult to stay interested, though, in that the stories were simultaneously connected and disjointed. Most of the characters were present throughout the collection, and each of the stories had something different to tell about life and experiences on the reservation, in the bars, in the HUD home shambles and, perhaps most importantly, on the basketball court. Still, the inability to tell a straight and direct story is perhaps the real dilemma which Alexie is attempting to express. All the characters’ stories are exaggerated – created for the illusions of comfort, power, home, and even health. We find similar methods in the old Irish folk tales and even early American Folklore (i.e. Paul Bunyan, Pecos Bill, etc.); however, there is something more honest about the Native tales – the magical realism isn’t intended to be believable, yet still manages to be so, somehow. Perhaps because, though the stories themselves are doubtful, the words and thoughts (the spoken and unspoken) express so much – and the heartache, the disaster that was Native American eradication and displacement, cannot possibly be told within the confines of typical “white man” narration. I’m interested to read more Alexie, after this collection. Though it wasn’t my favorite read, it was surely worth the time.

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