The evening book group will be convening on May 13 at 7:30 p.m. to discuss The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven (hereby referred to as TLRATFIH). Everyone's welcome. If you haven't heard of TLRATFIH, it's a collection of stories about life on the Spokane reservation written by Sherman Alexie, a Coeur d'Alene/ Spokane Indian.
I'm finding that interviews with Alexie Sherman (The Guardian recently compared him to Robin Williams) are a lot more fun to read than TLRATFIH, but then the book isn't meant to be light. Alexie takes the two stereotypical Indian roles - warrior and shaman - and subverts them with Victor and Thomas (this isn't my idea: Joan and Dennis West, two university professors who interviewed Alexie for Cineaste magazine, came up with it). According to The Guardian, Alexie hopes his next novel, about Thomas Builds-the-Fire, will be the "great American Indian novel that examines everything in our world."
One of the book group members has already told me she hated the all the drunkenness and alcoholism in TLRATFIH (and everything else about it too, actually), which may be explained by the fact that Alexie was still drinking when he wrote TLRATFIH. It turns out that the book club member may like the film version, Smoke Signals, better; Alexie explained to Cineaste in an interview about Smoke Signals: "As I've been in recovery over the years and stayed sober, you'll see the work gradually freeing itself of alcoholism and going much deeper, exploring the emotional, sociological and psychological reasons for any kind of addiction. . . I'm looking for the causes now, rather than the effects, and I think that's what Smoke Signals is about." Smoke Signals is mostly based on the story of Victor and Thomas going to Phoenix to get Victor's father's ashes, which in itself is based on a real event in Alexie's life (read the interview for more autobiographical details).
"An Indian Without Reservations" is a fascinating article by Timothy Egan in the New York Times Book Review about Sherman Alexie, detailing everything from the unexpected stand-up comedy he performed at a book reading to the Alexie's feud with Barbara Kingsolver and other "Indian poseurs", that is, non-Indian writers who write about Indians (Alexie's preferred word for native Americans).
Here are the discussion questions that we will use as a jumping off point.