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Not Enough Indians: A Novelby Harry Shearer
Synopses & Reviews
Meet the residents of Gammage, NY, a town so far down on its luck that Wal Mart would rather site its new store in the middle of a lake than in Gammage. Mayor Curtis Zorn and the rest of the town council are on the verge of declaring the town bankrupt, when inspiration strikes. Why not petition for Indian Tribal status, open a casino, and sit back while the cash rolls in? With the gears in Washington appropriately greased, the ink is barely dry on their Tribal certification when Gammage is transformed into the sovereign nation of the long-lost Filaquonsett tribe. It's only a matter of trading in their housecoats and galoshes for buckskins and moccasins, and boning up on their tribal lore and ceremonial dances, until the "Council of Elders" is ready to import some casino backing and gaming know-how, both of which come in the form of Tony "Loose Slots" Silotta, and his artificially enhanced Vegas showgirl wife. In short order the Filaquonsett Casino is the biggest, richest, most authentically Native American gaming property in the nation, the envy of Las Vegas and Atlantic City alike. It's only a matter of time before the lucky Filaquonsetts get their comeuppance...
Funny, smart, antic, and scathing, Not Enough Indians is a brilliant ensemble piece mixing hilarity, misadventure, and the great American dream.
"Shearer, probably best known for his work on The Simpsons and This Is Spinal Tap, sets his farcical first novel in the world of Native American — owned casinos. After being 'savaged by downsizing, by outsourcing, by plant-closing,' the citizens of withering Gammage, N.Y., successfully petition Washington to be recognized as the Filaquonsett tribe so they can build a casino. Their gambling operation has a negative impact on the casino of a neighboring tribe, and that tribe settles the score by having a toxic waste dump built next to the Filaquonsett casino. It's a silly setup, and Shearer uses it to beat home points about greed, materialism and ethnic identity. The book often becomes a morass of easy one-liners ('the process was proceeding at a pace that glaciers and snails would envy'). Stereotypes about Italian-Americans and Native Americans similarly fail to go over the top, instead occupying the queasy middle ground between funny and unfortunate. One bit of inspired nonsense involves a group of diaper-wearing grownups (they consider holding DiaperCon XII in the Filaquonsett reservation), but the scatological humor won't be enough to pull readers through." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Harry Shearer occupies a peculiar niche in our pop cultural landscape, somehow managing to be legendary (he played the cucumber-packing bassist in 'This Is Spinal Tap'), ubiquitous (he supplies the voices of Ned Flanders and Mr. Burns, among others, on 'The Simpsons') and more or less unknown to the general public. For a guy associated with so many high-profile undertakings (he was also a writer and... Washington Post Book Review (read the entire Washington Post review) cast member on 'Saturday Night Live' in the early 1980s), Shearer probably doesn't get pestered too much for his autograph while shopping for groceries. As any writer whose last name isn't Rowling or Grisham will attest, publishing a book doesn't usually pose a serious threat to one's status as a non-famous person, so it's safe to speculate that the arrival of Shearer's first novel — an engaging political satire called 'Not Enough Indians' — probably won't turn him into a household name. But the book should serve as a welcome reminder of Shearer's extraordinary versatility as an artist and solidify his reputation as a keen-eyed comic observer of American life. 'Not Enough Indians' is a high-concept novel in the Christopher Buckley mode, with a premise that's at once utterly outrageous and weirdly plausible. The town of Gammage, N.Y., is in deep trouble: The factories have shut down, the roads and schools are in disrepair, and the beleaguered municipal government can barely afford to collect the garbage. Even the public radio station has closed, replaced by a 'Christian radio network that features `Hot Jesus Talk."' After failing to woo a Wal-Mart or sell 'naming rights to a big ugly building on the wrong side of town,' the city fathers find temporary economic salvation in the unlikely figure of Tony 'Loose Slots' Silotta, a thuggish mogul from Las Vegas looking for a piece of the lucrative Indian casino action. Hoping to beat the dubious Wowosa tribe of Connecticut ('It's not wow! It's Wowosa!') at its own game, Silotta makes the town of Gammage an offer it can't refuse: 'Let me get this straight,' a pony-tailed selectperson says. 'You want us to get the entire population of the town recognized as an Indian tribe so that we can open a gambling casino?' The bureaucratic obstacles to this fraud turn out to be easier to navigate than one might expect, due to the fact that Vince Winstanley, a deputy assistant secretary at the Bureau of Indian Affairs, just happens to be under pressure from his boss to speed up the certification of 'the unrecognized tribes, 250 groups of Native Americans who enjoyed neither tribal sovereignty nor the unalloyed pleasures of reservation life because the federal government had never signed treaties with them.' Add a smooth-talking Washington lawyer to the mix and before long, the citizens of Gammage have been reborn as the Filaquonsett tribe, upon whose newly sovereign land Silotta constructs a 'vast, galactic' casino, big enough that 'two Wowosas and an Office Depot' can fit inside it. Shearer is at his satiric best in chronicling the absurdities of Gammage's cultural and economic metamorphosis. Embracing their new identity with more fervor than seems absolutely necessary, many Filaquonsetts actually seem to believe they're Indians: 'We prayed to Ngadala, the god of the sun and the moon, to rescue our tribe, and our valley, and our prayers have been answered,' Dr. Gardner declares, while wearing a headdress and a three-piece suit. The townspeople learn the ceremonial Eagle Dance and greet each other with the words, 'Hya, hya, hya.' Needless to say, the Wowosas are not amused, and soon the two ersatz tribes are engaged in a very real battle for survival. For a relatively short book, 'Not Enough Indians' is packed with characters, a rogue's gallery of earnest city officials, long-winded local activists, unctuous consultants, wily bureaucrats, Native American hucksters, Vegas high-rollers and assorted eccentrics. This crowded field plays to one of Shearer's strengths as a writer: He's a master of the thumbnail sketch. But at times, entertaining and politically astute as it is, the novel seems to lack a center, a single character or relationship that the reader can track all the way from beginning to end. Arriving on the heels of the Jack Abramoff scandal, 'Not Enough Indians' may also suffer a bit in comparison to that epic tale of casino-related corruption. None of the characters in Shearer's novel seems as operatically venal as Abramoff or as nakedly hypocritical as Ralph Reed, the fallen choirboy of the Christian right. As Philip Roth pointed out way back in the "60s, American reality is always running a step or two ahead of the imagination of even our boldest novelists. Tom Perrotta is the author, most recently, of 'Little Children.'" Reviewed by Tom Perrotta, Washington Post Book World (Copyright 2006 Washington Post Book World Service/Washington Post Writers Group)
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"Shearer has a fine time lampooning just about every institution and piety modern America has to offer — even NPR. A pleasing debut, even if the spectacle of Michael Eisner action figures chills the soul." Kirkus Reviews
"[A] wickedly funny debut novel....Though Shearer's ending falls a bit flat, readers can bet on lots of guffaws along the way." Booklist
"Shearer doesn't really know where to go with his audacious premise, and the story loses steam about halfway through. And while depth of character isn't necessarily required in satire, Shearer's main technique of characterization seems to be describing people's hairstyles." Library Journal
"Sadly, this witty premise is dragged down by an ungainly number of overly broad characters...while an unfortunate penchant for narrative overchoreography buries any good jokes under a pile of adjectives. (Grade: C)" Entertainment Weekly
"Harry Shearer has one of America's great satirical minds, and he's in beautifully wicked form with Not Enough Indians." Carl Hiassen
"Harry Shearer's Not Enough Indians is a comic travelogue thru the dog eat dog, mob eat mob, quid pro quo world of contemporary corporate commerce and corruption. Sad, funny, prescient and pathetic, it will leave you shaking your head in wonder and worry." Jamie Lee Curtis
"This is a brilliant and crisp page-turner that answers the question that every novel must answer anew in every age: how is the road to Hell paved with good intentions? Shearer's swift wit takes dead-on aim at our society's compounding layers of idiocy and virtuality. His characters are not loveable, but you feel sorry for them anyway, because they are people just like us. Hell, they are us." Andrei Codrescu
Meet the residents of Gammage, NY, a town on the verge of declaring bankruptcy, when inspiration strikes. Why not go native, and open a casino? With Not Enough Indians, actor, writer, producer, and former Saturday Night Live cast member Harry Shearer joins the ranks of such comedian/authors as Steve Martin and Michael Palin, with a brilliantly funny, whip-smart satire of greed, collusion, distrust and betrayal in the halls of Washington and the casinos of Native America.
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