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War Dancesby Sherman Alexie
2010 PEN/Faulkner Award
Synopses & Reviews
Fresh off his National Book Award win, Sherman Alexie delivers a heart-breaking and hilarious collection of stories that explore the precarious balance between self-preservation and external responsibility in art, family, and the world at large. With unparalleled insight into the minds of artists, laborers, fathers, husbands, and sons, Alexie populates his stories with ordinary men on the brink of exceptional change.
In a bicoastal journey through the consequences of both simple and monumental life choices, Alexie introduces us to these personal worlds as they transform beyond return. In the title story, a famous writer must decide how to care for his distant father who is slowly dying a natural Indian death from alcohol and diabetes, just as he learns that he himself may have a brain tumor. Alexie dissects a vintage-clothing store owner's failing marriage and his subsequent courtship of a married photographer in various airports across the country; what happens when a politician's son commits an unforgivable hate crime; and how a young boy learns his self-worth while writing for the obituary department of his local newspaper.
Brazen and wise, War Dances takes us to the heart of what it means to be human. The new beginnings, successes, mistakes, and regrets that make up our daily lives are laid bare in this wide-ranging and provocative new work that is Alexie at the height of his powers.
"From National Book Award-winner Alexie comes a new collection of stories, poems, question and answer sequences, and hybrids of all three and beyond. In a penetrating voice that mixes humor with anger, Alexie pointedly asks, 'If it is true that children pay for the sins of their fathers, then is it also true that fathers pay for the sins of their children?' Many of the stories revolve around the complexities of fatherhood; in the title story, the Native American narrator recalls his alcoholic father's death as he confronts his own mortality, and 'The Ballad of Paul Nonetheless' is the tale of an eccentric vintage clothing salesman whose sexual attraction to his wife fades following the birth of their children. The collection also contains stirring defenses of artistic integrity; 'Fearful Symmetry' is an incisive account of working as a young screenwriter for a Hollywood studio, and the poem 'Ode to Mix Tapes' endorses hard work as the key ingredient behind any creation. Alexie unfurls highly expressive language, and while at times his jokes bomb and the characters' anger can feel forced, overall this is a spiritedly provocative array of tragic comedies." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"[T]his slim, yet powerful and perfectly ordered collection of stories and poems is a different kind of journey through unfamiliar territory..." Philadelphia Inquirer
“Alexie has a wry, subversive sensibility....The structure [in War Dances] is sophisticated yet playful, a subtle way to bring lightness to heavy topics such as senility, bigotry, cancer, and loneliness....A mix tape of a book, with many voices, pieces of different length, shifting rhythms, an evolving story." The Los Angeles Times
"Mortality is much on the mind of this puckish writer, who continues to sift common truths through the sieve of his Indian identity, albeit with the alacrity of a man barreling away from his youth." The New York Times Book Review
"Sherman Alexie is not a finicky writer. He is often messy and in-your-face in a way that can make you laugh (or shudder) when you least expect to....War Dances is Alexie's fiercely freewheeling collection of stories and poems about the tragicomedies of ordinary lives." O, the Oprah Magazine
"Alexie’s works are piercing yet rueful. He writes odes to anguished pay-phone calls, to boys who would drive through blizzards to see a girl, to couples who need to sit together on airplane flights even though the computer thinks otherwise....[A] marvelous collection." Miami Herald
Fresh off his National Book Award win, Alexie delivers a heartbreaking and hilarious collection of stories that explores the precarious balance between self-preservation and external responsibility in art, family, and the world at large.
About the Author
A National Book Award-winning author, poet, and filmmaker, Sherman Alexie has been named one of Granta's Best Young American Novelists and has been lauded by the Boston Globe as "an important voice in American literature." He is one of the most well known and beloved literary writers of his generation, with works such as The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven and Reservation Blues, and has received numerous awards and citations, including the PEN/Malamud Award for Fiction and the Lila Wallace-Reader's Digest Award.
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